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Full text of "On the road to Bagdad, a story of Townshend's gallent advance on the Tigris"

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ON THE MjAD 
TO BAGI^D 



1 




Boitoffi VNibf k: LNmMy 
Boston. MA 02116 



:£xa 




On the Road to Bagdad 



STORIES OF WAR 

By captain brereton 



When Captain Brereton has a war subject to handle he always 
does it well"— Westminster Gazette. 



On the Road to Bagdad: A Story of the British Expeditionary 
Force in Mesopotamia. 

With Our Russian Allies: A Tale of Cossack Fighting in the 
Eastern Campaign. 

On the Field of Waterloo. 

With Wellington in Spain: A Story of the Peninsula. 

A Hero of Sedan : A Tale of the Franco- Prussian War. 

With Wolseley to Kumasi: The First Ashanti War. 

At Grips with the Turk: A Story of the Dardanelles Campaign. 

With Roberts to Candahar: Third Afghan War. 

A Hero of Lucknow: A Tale of the Indian Mutiny. 

With Joffre at Verdun : A Story of the Western Front. 

Under French's Command: A Story of the Western Front from 
Neuve Chapelle to Loos. 

With French at the Front: A Story of the Gr'jat European War 
down to the Battle of the Aisne. 

How Canada was Won : A Tale of Wolfe and Quebec. 

Jones of the 64th. Battles of Assaye and Laswaree. 

A Soldier of Japan: A Tale of the Russo-Japanese War. 

With Shield and Assegai: A Tale of the Zulu War. 

Under the Spangled Banner: The Spanish-American War. 

In the King's Service: Cromwell's Invasion of Ireland. 

In the Grip of the Mullah: Adventure in Somaliland. 

With Rifle and Bayonet: A Story of the Boer War. 

One of the Fighting Scouts: Guerrilla Warfare in South Africa. 

The Dragon of Pekin: A Story of the Boxer Revolt. 

A Gallant Grenadier: A Story of the Crimean War. 



LONDON: BLACKIE & SON, Ltd., 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C. 




C834 



THE CHIEF RETURNED THE OFFICER'S FRANK GAZE WITH A 
GLANCE WHICH TOLD OF COURAGE AND PRIDE " 



On the 
Road to Bagdad 

A Story of Townshend's 
Gallant Advance on the Tigris 



BY 



CAPTAIN F. S. BRERETON 

Author of "With Joffre at Verdun" 
"Under French's Command" ~ 
"With Our Russian Allies" 
&c. &c. 



Illustrated by JVal Paget 



BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED 

LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY 
1917 



.B75H Cf-n, 



^^. r /fir 



Contents 



Chap. Page 

I. A Frontier Station - 9 

II. Geoffrey Keith and Another - - - - 23 

III. The Persian Gulf 39 

IV. The First Encounter 58 

V. News of the Enemy 76 

VI. An Exploring-party 94 

VII. Major Joseph Douglas 117 

VIII. The Motor-boat in Action 140 

IX. A Cutting-out Expedition 159 

X. Geoff and Philip manceuvre .... 175 

XI. A Soldiers' Battle 197 

XII. Esbul, the Armenian 214 

XIII. An Amphibious Expedition 232 

XIV. Captured by the Enemy 251 

XV. Von Hildemaller's Intervention - - - 270 

XVI. Breaking Out 290 

XVII. The Road to Bagdad 309 

XVIII. News of Douglas Pasha 327 

XIX. Tracking the German 34^ 

XX. Success at Last 365 

5 



Illustrations 



Page 

"The chief returned the officer's frank gaze with 
a glance which told of courage and pride" 

Frontispiece 8i 

"What was left of those arab horsemen scattered 

AND fled" 74 

"Geoff levelled his own piece on him" - - - 144 

" Philip hurled himself and his captive over the 

rail of the vessel" 192 

"Geoff turned, and, drawing his revolver, emptied 

it at the two men still pursuing" _ . _ 224 

"The ARAB SET OFF ALONG A PATH WITHIN SOME TWENTY 

YARDS OF OUR HEROES" - 337 



ON THE ROAD TO 
BAGDAD 



CHAPTER I 

A Frontier Station 

A GUN, a small brass piece, an interesting relic of 
other days, boomed forth the hour of noon from the 
lowest embrasure of a hill fort overlooking the canton- 
ment of the — — Sikhs, and warned all and sundry 
that it was time for tiffin. The cloud of grey smoke 
which blew upward from the muzzle, and which was 
wafted ever so gently by the breeze floating toward 
the hill-top from the depths of the giant valley below, 
spread out into a thin white sheet, and, ascending 
slowly, first wrapped the time-scarred walls of the old 
fort in its embrace, and then, getting whiter as it 
ascended, reached the battlements above, and, perco- 
lating through the many gun embrasures, floated over 
the roof of the fortress, till the misty haze hung about 
the portals of the veranda of the Officers' Mess bun- 
galow. 

There were a dozen or more figures, dressed in 

9 



lo On the Road to Bagdad 

khaki or in pure white, and stretched in every sort of 
attitude, and in every variety of chair, beneath that 
veranda. There were young subalterns, joined but a 
month or two since, and other subalterns whose hair 
at the temples was already showing some suspicion of 
grey while still they failed to get promotion. There 
was a rather stout old field officer who had seen more 
years of service in India than many of the subalterns 
could boast of in their lives. A rubicund, jolly officer 
he was, upon whom the detestable climate of the many 
stations in which he had been forced to serve had 
made not the slightest effect whatever. There was 
another officer, too, short, slim, and active as a cat, 
whose hair and moustache were as white as the snows 
capping the distant mountains. A glance told one 
intuitively that here, too, was an old soldier, an old 
Indian soldier, that is, who had spent the better part 
of a long life out in the "shiney". 

''Hallo! What's the time? Anywhere near time 
for tiffin?" asked one of the ''subs", whose cap had 
fallen over his face, and who now awakened from the 
reverie into which he had fallen, and suddenly started 
upward. 

"What! So fast asleep that you didn't hear the 
gun?" cried a brother officer, smacking him heartily 
on the back. " Man alive! The fort's still shaking." 

"And yet," smiled the rubicund Major who had 
seen so many years' service in India, "and yet, my 
boys, I'll vouch for the fact that I've slept the hot 
hours of the morning away on the roof of this fortress 
a hundred times and more and failed to be awakened 
by the gun. What is more, that report at twelve 
o'clock has become a sort of habit with me, so that 



A Frontier Station n 

I've Iain here smoking and perspiring in the heat, 
and though the gun's gone off as usual, and, indeed, 
as it's never failed to do this last twenty years or more, 
I've been startled when the mess waiter has come out 
to announce tiffin. Ha! Listen! That should be 
proof enough that the gun has gone; the burra Mem- 
sahib's butler is ringing for the Colonel. Between 
you and me, my boys, the Colonel isn't half as punc- 
tual a man in his own house as he is in the orderly- 
room, and, what's more, he expects a great deal more 
of that commodity from us poor fellows than he 
exhibits himself. But, tut-tut! That's heresy. That's 
preaching revolution. Don't any of you fellows men- 
tion it." 

He stretched his arms, and waddled, rather than 
strode, from the veranda, across the roof of the fort- 
ress, and through those wisps of smoke which still 
curled upward, till he was leaning upon the low wall 
which protected the edge of the fortress ; and there for 
a while he stood, looking out upon a scene which en- 
chanted him more on every occasion when he went to 
view it. It was habit, indeed, with the old Major to 
take stock of that view every day before tiffin, just as 
a hon viveiir takes his aperitif heiove luncheon. 

" Braces a fellow up, don't you know," the jovial 
Major was wont to tell his brother officers. '* It's 
glorious; it's elevating; it's positively exhilarating; 
and gives a fellow a right down sharp hunger! That's 
what you boys want to cultivate out in this country. 
Look at me! Never sick or sorry, and have always 
taken my meals like a good 'un. That's because I've 
a cheerful heart, a sound digestion and constitution, 
and take a delight in my surroundings and in all 



12 On the Road to Bagdad 

that's doing. No grousing for me, my boys. Take 
everything as it comes and don't bother." 

Everyone knew the Major, and not one of the Subs 
but listened to what he said with respect and amuse- 
ment. 

** Decent old fellow," he was always voted. 

**And teaches a line lesson, too," the Colonel had 
told his officers on more than one occasion. '' Grous- 
ing's the curse of the British army in some stations. 
I don't say that British officers are in the habit of 
grumbling always; far from it. But when there's 
nothing doing, and a fellow is tied by the leg in some 
frontier station, and must stay there and groan under 
a roasting sun, why! if he doesn't keep himself fit 
and in first-class condition he gets out of sorts, and 
then there's grumbling." 

Let us look over the wall of the fortress, where a 
number of officers had by now joined the stout Major, 
and take stock of that view which he had proclaimed 
to be ''exhilarating". True enough, it was one of 
those marvellous views only to be obtained on the 
frontier of India. The fort stood perched on a pro- 
jecting eminence, around which nature, guided by the 
active hands of many a succeeding garrison of soldiers, 
had grafted a most enchanting garden. A stream 
trickled from above and behind the fort, and descend- 
ing the gentle slopes of the mountain, and broadening 
as it came, splashed through the very heart of the 
cantonment gardens, and sent off a broad canal of 
shimmering water down beside the main street. 
From that point it splashed over the edge of the pre- 
cipice just beneath the fortress, and, tinkling musically 
as it went, splashed its way to the bottom. You could 



A Frontier Station 13 

hear it from the roof of the fort. Often enough the 
sun's rays, glancing through the mists and spray 
thrown up by the fall, formed a most gorgeous rain- 
bow; while in the height of summer, when the sun, 
then almost overhead, poured down such furious heat 
that the roof of the fortress glowed and almost sim- 
mered, then that same misty spray would be wafted 
up by a cooling draught from the valley below, and 
would fall upon the blistering skins of the officers who 
gasped beneath the veranda. 

Yes, even in those hill forts it can be hot enough, 

and where the Sikhs were quartered there were 

seasons when, not long after the sun had risen, nc 
sane white man dared to venture abroad. 

And what a valley it was below! Rugged and 
winding, narrowing here and there, till from the 
height above it looked as though a wagon could not 
be driven along it, and then widening most unex- 
pectedly and suddenly till there came a huge saucer, 
as it were, in which a whole city could have been 
safely deposited. Trees clad the side of the mountain 
as it descended into the valley, trees which, scattered 
at first, grew later in thick clumps till they became 
almost a forest, and which, severed by the river which 
wound its way through the valley, had taken root 
again on its farther bank, and went straggling up the 
opposite heights till almost the snow-line was reached. 
Those heights perhaps provided the summit of gran- 
deur to this magnificent scene. Wooded below, as 
we have seen, they became rugged and broken and 
rocky as they ascended, till there was presented a row 
of broken irregular pinnacles, which cut along the 
sky-line right opposite the fortress, and which pre- 



14 On the Road to Bagdad 

sented day in and day out, even on those days when 
the sun's rays bore down so relentlessly upon the roof 
of the fortress, a continuous line of snow, hollowed 
here and there into deep crevasses and gullies, pre- 
senting most gorgeous blue shades in the depths of a 
hundred dimples, and showing elsewhere a smooth, 
unbroken surface of light, which altered only when 
north-eastern gales were blowing. 

'^ A sight for the gods! yes," the jovial Major told 
his comrades, snuffing at the breeze as if he were a 
dog, ''and who could be down-hearted, or dull, or 
miserable, or even discontented, with such a view to 
look upon?" 

'' More particularly when one knows so well that 
tiffin's ready, and that the words of wisdom of our 
dear old friend the Major always precede the an- 
nouncement of that meal." 

It was the white-haired senior officer who had 
spoken banteringly, and who stood at that moment 
beside the Major, one hand affectionately on his 
shoulder, the other on the parapet of the fortress. 

'' There, Charlie! Didn't I say so! Listen! There's 
the gong going." 

The silvery notes of a gong reached their ears at 
that very moment, and, turning, all saw a most mag- 
nificent personage — to wit, the mess butler — standing 
at the door of the mess bungalow, sounding the call 
for luncheon. Then all turned and trooped across 
the roof of the fortress, across the veranda, and dis- 
appeared within the door of the bungalow. 

It was perhaps three minutes later when a tall and 
immaculately dressed officer sauntered on to the roof 
of the fortress, and having taken stock of the view 



A Frontier Station 15 

— as if he too must needs partake of some fillip before 
venturing upon luncheon — then strode off into the 
mess bungalow. There he found his brother officers 
already seated, and, striding down behind them, sat 
himself down at his accustomed place. 

''Hallo! Back again, Joe?" ventured the jovial 
Major, who occupied the neighbouring chair. 
*' Hardly expected you." 

Major Joe Douglas dropped his eyeglass as he 
helped himself to curry, and turned smilingly upon 
his brother officer. 

'*Oh! Really!" he said, in those very quiet tones 
for which he was noted. 

''Never saw such a chap," laughed the jovial 
Major, as he attacked the food which lay before him. 
"You come and go like a wizard. In fact, you're 
here one day, and gone to-morrow, and goodness 
only knows where you spirit yourself to. My dear 
old boy, you can't deny the accusation. Mind you, 
I'm not trying to be inquisitive, very far from it, for 
I know that inquisitiveness in the case of 'politicals', 
such as you are, is a deadly sin ; but let's call it 
simple curiosity, harmless curiosity — the curiosity 
one's allowed to display with regard to one's brother 
officers. You see, you come and go." 

"Yes. Quite so," smiled Major Douglas. 

"And sometimes you're here, kicking your heels 
about, and dawdling for a month and more at a time. 
Then you disappear, where to, goodness alone knows. 
If you were going on leave to England the whole 
station would be aware of it. But you don't. You 
haven't been home for ten years at least. Then where 
do you get to?" 



i6 On the Road to Bagdad 

Till that moment a babel of sounds had been pro- 
ceeding from the members of the mess, for a dozen 
subalterns can create quite a considerable amount of 
noise between them. Yet, as they ate their meal and 
bantered with one another, not one had failed to 
notice the arrival of Major Joseph Douglas. They 
liked the man. Not that they saw very much of him, 
nor could he be accused of ever being garrulous. He 
was just a smart, tall, immaculately dressed officer, 
who had a great reputation for smartness and soldierly 
qualities. At first sight his eyeglass rather awed young 
subalterns, till they grew to know that the Major was 
like Charlie, his fat brother officer, a most excellent 
and unaffected fellow. Beyond their liking for him 
there was, however, a depth of curiosity to which 
their senior officer had only just given expression. 
Such a cross-questioning of Major Douglas not one 
of the subalterns would ever have ventured upon. 
For somehow it had come to be generally known in 
the mess that the Major's movements were essentially 
secret. He was a political officer, they all knew, 
though what ^'political" meant in his case few of 
them had but the faintest idea. Yet one and all 
were very naturally consumed with a desire to know 
something of this quiet, reserved, yet exceedingly 
pleasant brother officer. Thus it happened that even 
in the midst of their banter they heard the old field 
officer cross-examine the Major, and promptly be- 
came silent. 

^^ Well, now," they heard him say, ''I've cornered 
you, Joe; you're here, next door to me, and can't get 
away; and remember it's just friendly curiosity. Do, 
for goodness' sake, tell us something about yourself: 

(C834) 



A Frontier Station 17 

where you've been of late, what you've done, and 
what's the meaning of it." 

All eyes were turned promptly upon Major Joseph 
Douglas. He groped for his fallen eyeglass, and 
fixed it very deliberately in his eye, then he signalled 
to one of the mess waiters and just as deliberately 
helped himself to another share of curried chicken. 

'^ I — Oh — Why, Charlie!" he began. " Have you 
— er — that is, did you try this curried chicken? I 
declare it to be the best that I've tasted for a year 
or so. What's happened? Have you fellows been 
indulging in a new cook since I last went away, or 

Do try some, Charlie, there's a good fellow." 

Those who did not know the officers of the Sikhs, 

and didn't know either Major Charles Evans or Major 
Joseph Douglas, might have expected at this moment 
quite an explosion on the part of Major Evans. The 
jovial fellow had had the audacity to show curiosity. 
Taking advantage of his age and of his seniority, he 
had ventured at the mess table to cross-examine a 
*' political ", and now, just as he was listening with 
bated breath for the answer, he received — merely a 
''put-off", and heard his brother officer asking him, 
in that suave, quiet voice he knew so well, whether 
he would not indulge in a helping of curried chicken. 
Yet those unacquainted with the officers of the 

Sikhs would have found themselves signally in 

error when expecting an explosion. Those two 
bright eyes, of which Major Evans boasted, twinkled 
as he listened to his brother officer. Then the corners 
of his mouth dimpled, and a moment later he was 
roaring with laughter. 

''Beaten, hopelessly beaten!" he cried jovially; 

( C 834 ) 2 



i8 On the Road to Bagdad 

**and I might have expected it. For an oyster, my 
dear boy, you really are exceptional. Now any other 
fellow, any other *' political ", that is to say, would 
have indulged in some sort of hint to relieve our 
curiosity, would have pitched some sort of yarn, even 
though it were not an exactly true one. But you — 
well, you're hopeless, incorrigible, and most utterly 
disappointing. Boy! Bring me some iced water, I 
must cool myself down after such a rebuff, and I'll 
Hallo! Hallo! Here's a message." 

A native soldier stood saluting at the door of the 
ante-room, and presented an official envelope to the 
mess butler. 

*'The Major Sahib," he said. 

^'The Major Douglas Sahib," the mess butler cor- 
rected him severely. ''The Major Douglas Sahib. 
Quick! Important!" 

He placed the envelope on a silver salver, and, 
holding it therewith the tip of his thumb, came swiftly 
and silently round to the seat occupied by that officer. 

''From the Colonel, Sahib," he said as he leant 
over Joe Douglas's shoulder. 

Very slowly and deliberately, as if unconscious of 
the fact that every eye in the mess was surreptitiously 
fixed upon him, Joe Douglas tore open the envelope 
and read the contents of the missive. 

"Proceed at once to Bombay. There call for 
orders at Governor's office. Mesopotamia — urgent," 
he read, and those who watched him saw not so much 
as a flicker of an eyelash or the smallest change of 
expression. He folded the letter up again and very 
deliberately placed it back in the envelope and very 
leisurely deposited it in a pocket. Then he finished 



A Frontier Station 19 

his curried chicken, called for a cup of coffee, and sat 
smoking a cigarette and chatting with his brother 
officers. 

*' Well?" asked Major Evans, as Joe Douglas rose 
to leave. ''I'm serious, my boy, this time. Every- 
one knows that things are moving over in Europe 
and elsewhere, and everyone can guess that you are 
off again on some expedition. Here's good luck! If 
I can do anything for you in your absence don't fail 
to write, for you know that Charlie Evans will stand 
by you." 

Joe Douglas nodded to the dozen subalterns seated 
about the table, and puffed a cloud of tobacco smoke 
above their heads. 

"Come out for a moment, Charlie," he said, 
"Good-bye, you fellows, I'm just off on a little trip. 
Keep things going till I come back again to the 
mess." 

He was on his feet by now, and strode clanking 
out on to the roof of the fortress, followed by Major 
Evans. Then the two men walked to the parapet of 
the fortress and stood side by side looking out over 
that gorgeous scene, neither of them venturing to 
speak for a few minutes. At length Joe Douglas 
turned to his companion. 

"Listen to this, Charlie," he said. "I'm off on 
something bigger than I've had to tackle before, 
though I'm to cover much of the ground that I'm 
used to. It's Mesopotamia again." 

"Ah ! Mesopotamia — a nasty place, up North of the 
Persian Gulf — heat — mosquitoes — Arabs," muttered 
Major Evans. 

" Not to mention Turks and Germans and ruffians," 



20 On the Road to Bagdad 

said his brother officer quietly; *'but I'm used to 
them all, Charlie, and am not thinking of myself. 
I'm thinking of Geoff. You know I've been his 
guardian ever since my old friend, his father, was 
lost in that Frontier expedition. He's joining the 
Mahrattas almost at once, and I badly wanted to keep 
an eye on him. You'll do that for me, eh?" 

*' Willingly." 

*'And will take charge of his father's papers?" 

** Everything." 

**Then good-bye." 

The two men gripped hands most cordially and 
firmly, and then Major Joseph Douglas turned on his 
heel and strode from the roof of the fortress, just as 
quietly and unostentatiously as he had strolled into 
the mess bungalow. This going away at a moment's 
notice was nothing new to him. An hour was sufficient 
in which to see that his servant had packed all his 
belongings. Half an hour later, in fact, saw him rid- 
ing down the rough track which led from the moun- 
tain, and three days later he was in Bombay itself. 
The journey before him was something a little out of 
the ordinary. There was w^ar in the air. There was 
already talk of a giant- European conflagration, and 
of an outbreak of hostilities between Germany and 
Austria on the one hand, and France and Russia on 
the other. We all know now that that war quickly 
drew into its toils other combatants. That Great 
Britain came into the struggle to uphold her honour, 
and with the object of retrieving the downfall of 
Belgium and of wrecking the power of the German 
Kaiser. Yet this tale has little to do with the main 
theatre of that gigantic conflict. It deals with a part 



A Frontier Station 21 

of the world hardly known in Europe, a part consisting 
of wide wastes of sand and gravel, and peopled by 
Arab and Turk and Armenian and Jew, not to men- 
tion Persians and peoples of other Asiatic races. 

What Major Joseph Douglas did not know of Meso- 
potamia and of the valleys of the Euphrates and of the 
Tigris may be said to have been hardly worth know- 
ing. As a *' political" he had made perhaps a dozen 
trips to this out-of-the-way part of the world, and being 
by nature attracted by the desert, and being vastly 
interested in the peoples living therein, those trips 
had become a source of huge enjoyment to him, so 
that return to his regiment in India had, after a while, 
become a sort of penance. His heart leapt at the 
thought of a further trip, yet, when he had read the 
papers, and when he had had an interview with the 
Governor at Bombay, even he — even light-hearted, 
cheerful, confident Joe Douglas — could not fail to see 
that danger, perhaps death, lay before him in those 
deserts. Yet he took ship for the Persian Gulf without 
hesitation, and, having landed at the township of Basra, 
disappeared entirely. 

The desert had swallowed him up, and thereafter, 
within a short while of his coming to this outlandish 
post, that Armageddon, that gigantic conflict, which 
now tears Europe to shreds, and which has already 
seen so many of her people slaughtered, began along 
the frontiers of France and Belgium and of Russia, 
and, proceeding in violence as the months went by, 
slowly immersed the Balkans in its turmoil. Turkey, 
too, was dragged into its trail, so that the venturesome 
Joe Douglas, the '* political", sent on a secret mission 
from India, found himself in the heart of a country in 



22 On the Road to Bagdad 

the occupation of Britain's enemies. Indeed, when 
this gallant officer reached the neighbourhood of his- 
toric Bagdad, those elements of the city other than 
Turkish were in a turmoil. Soldiers were elbowing 
their way through the bazaars, and the Turks alone, 
those people the placidity of whom nothing can destroy, 
seemed to be the only inhabitants of the city who had 
not escaped from Bedlam. It was in Bagdad, then, 
that Major Douglas found himself surrounded by 
enemies, and in danger of instant capture. 



CHAPTER II 

Geoffrey Keith and Another 

What a thing it is to be young and enthusiastic! 
The very news which, cabled far and wide, set the 
world almost trembling; which gave information of 
vast armies hurriedly mobilizing and rushing to meet 
one another in deadly combat; and which saw families 
divided, husbands and fathers and brothers torn from 
those they cared for, found Geoffrey Keith in the very 
highest of spirits. 

Not, let us explain, that this young man did not, 
and could not, realize the gravity of the position — of 
the terrible conflict which, at that moment, was burst- 
ing forth in Europe. He was not such a dunce that 
he had not learned of the might of Germany, of the 
military spirit which, for forty years or more, had 
swept from end to end of that country, and of the dark 
Hohenzollern cloud which had hung over the fair 
lands of Europe for many years past. Nor had the 
gossip of brother officers in clubs and in messes failed 
to reach his ears. He knew well enough that the out- 
break of war between Germany and Austria, and 
France and Russia, meant terrible fighting. He knew, 
better still, that if Great Britain came into the struggle 
that fighting would become even more strenuous still; 
for was not that the character of all Britons — slow to 



24 On the Road to Bagdad 

take up a quarrel, patient and forbearing, they had 
yet proved themselves in many a tussle to be stern 
and stanch fighters. They had shown indeed that 
pluck, that grit and determination, which long years 
since has won for our nation a wonderful reputation. 
Bulldogs we are known as, and bulldogs the 
British were to prove themselves in the course of 
this tremendous upheaval. 

Yet, war meant excitement! It meant active service! 
It meant perhaps journeying to another country; see- 
ing strange sights and hearing unfamiliar sounds, 
and taking part, for all one knew, in deeds which 
would become historical. 

** Bad luck for some people, no doubt," said Geoffrey 
as he sat in the corner of a railway carriage and 
panted, for the heat was great. **Just think of it, 
Philip, my boy! You and I have only recently com- 
pleted a special course in England and have not yet 
joined our regiment, and here we are, only just arrived 
in India, and already under orders for active service. 
What will they do with us, do you think?" 

His companion, a tall, slightly built young fellow 
of some nineteen years of age — a few months older 
than Geoffrey in fact — answered him with energy. 
To be sure, he too was lolling listlessly in the opposite 
corner of the carriage, and was fanning himself with 
The Times of India. It was desperately hot outside, 
and now that the train had come to a halt at a wayside 
junction, what current of air there had been passing 
through the compartment was stilled entirely, so that 
the interior was like an oven. Outside the sun poured 
down upon the broad platform of the junction till one's 
eyes ached if one looked out through the gloom of the 



Geoffrey Keith and Another 25 

carriage at its bright reflection ; and there, crowded 
upon it, careless and unmindful of the sun, chattering 
and gesticulating and shrieking at one another as 
only a native mob can do, were hundreds of natives, 
waiting for a train to take them in the opposite direc- 
tion. 

''Where shall we go, eh?" answered Philip. 
*' Where will the Mahrattas be ordered to? Well 
now, Geoff, that's rather a large order. To begin 
with, you don't suppose, do you, that every regiment 
— native and British — now in India will be taken out 
of the country?" 

''Why not?" ejaculated Geoff, peering hard at him 
through the gloom which filled the interior of the 
carriage. 

"Why not! Well, of course, there are reasons. 
For instance: supposing you were to remove every 
soldier in the country and leave only civilian white 
people behind, those agitators — those native agitators, 
that is — always to be found in such a huge population 
as we have in India, might stir up trouble, knowing 
that they had only the police to deal with. That's a 
reason, and a very good reason, for keeping troops in 
India ; and I have got another. Great Britain has 
already got an Expeditionary Force fully organized 
and planned for fighting with our French ally. But 
she'll be hard put to it to get that force fully mo- 
bilized and equipped. Not until then will our country 
have time to turn round in other directions. So you 
can take it from me, my boy, we are likely to stay in 
our station for some time before we get marching 
orders." 

As a matter of fact the declaration of war between 



26 On the Road to Bagdad 

Germany and Great Britain produced a great deal 
more than excitement in far-off India. There was a 
great coming and going of trains, a great concentra- 
tion of certain of the troops — both native and British 
— in parts of the Empire, and, when a few weeks had 
gone by, transports set out across the Indian Ocean 
carrying those two native divisions to France which 
were to do such signal service. And, in the interval, 
those troops not yet under orders were being busily 
prepared for fighting. Indeed, Geoff and his friend 
Philip had hardly reached their station — within a few 
miles of that so recently quitted by Major Joe Douglas 
— when they found themselves hard at work training. 

^'Of course, you young officers have only just 
joined us," their Colonel told them a couple of days 
after their arrival. '' But we are fortunate in one 
thing, you were both of you born in India — in can- 
tonments — and may be said to have been brought up 
in the Indian army. Then you have done work with 
the O.T.C. in England, and gone through a special 
course before leaving that country. But you will 
have to nail in at your work as hard as possible, for it 
is more than likely — more than likely," he repeated 
with emphasis, "that the Mahrattas will be wanted 
very soon for foreign service." 

"Foreign service! Hurrah!" cried Geoff enthusi- 
astically, when he and his chum were alone together. 
"That's what I've always thought and wished for. 
But where? France, eh?" 

"Hardly likely," came the answer. "Everyone 
knows that the Meerut and Lahore Divisions are bound 
for that quarter. Isn't there any other spot where 
there's likely to be fighting?" 



Geoffrey Keith and Another 27 

Months later, had their question been answered, it 
would have caused the one questioned to smile ironi- 
cally. For indeed this gig-antic conflict has spread 
across the globe, till there are few places in which 
fighting has not occurred; but Mesopotamia! Who 
would have thought that the Mahrattas were to under- 
take service in the neighbourhood of the Persian Gulf. 
Why, Philip hardly knew of the existence of such a 
place, though Geoff was well acquainted with the 
country. Let us explain the circumstances of this 
young fellow a little more fully before he becomes im- 
mersed in the excitement and adventures of a campaign 
in the valley of the Tigris. 

Geoff Keith was the only son, the only child in fact, 
of Captain Robert Keith, once of the — Sikh Regi- 
ment, in which Major Joe Douglas was an officer. 
Subalterns together, they had grown up side by side, 
and had become inseparables. Often enough, when 
Joe Douglas happened to have been with his regiment 
— which was seldom in later years — these two had 
spent their leave together, and many a hunting trip 
had they taken together in the neighbourhood of the 
Himalayas. But circumstances in the end tended 
rather to separate these two old friends, for, as we 
have explained already, Joe Douglas became a *' poli- 
tical" — a very well-thought-of and frequently employed 
''political", we should add — while Robert married, 
and therefore was seen less often in the mess of his 
regiment. Yet the old friendship never died away, 
and when Robert, who in the meanwhile had had 
the misfortune to lose his wife, went on an expedition 
to the frontier, and there sustained a wound from 
which he died, it followed as a natural course that 



28 On the Road to Bagdad 

his old friend Joe Douglas was left as guardian of 
the boy. 

No one could say that this gallant officer had not 
carried out his duties with every sympathy. Indeed, 
Geoffrey had become like a son to the Major, and 
during the years that he was in India — for Geoff was 
sent to a school for English boys in the hills — the two 
saw a great deal of one another. With an eye to the 
future, the Major went so far as to give long and 
painstaking instruction to his charge; so that, when 
at length, at the age of sixteen only, Geoff accom- 
panied his guardian on one of those expeditions of his 
into Mesopotamia, he found himself by no means a 
stranger. 

*' It will be your own fault, Geoff," said the Major, 
as they took a river boat up the Tigris towards Bag- 
dad — ''it will be your own fault, my lad, if you don't, 
one of these days, follow in my footsteps as a 'politi- 
cal '. I have taught you Turkish, and the Arabic the 
natives in and around Bagdad speak, and though I 
dare say at times you have found it an awful bore, yet 
you've stuck to your work like a good 'un. Now 
you'll see the advantage of that work. You'll be able 
to understand what people are saying round you, and 
will be able to make your way amongst the Turks and 
amongst the Arabs with comparative ease. The few 
months we are here during this trip will familiarize 
you with the country and the people, and one of these 
days this trip will prove of immense advantage to 
you." 

That sojourn in Mesopotamia had indeed been one 
long delight to Geoff Keith. The open-air life; their 
residence, often enough with some wild Arab tribe; 



Geoffrey Keith and Another 29 

their tent dwellings; those long rides on horseback 
which they took across the desert, fascinated him, so 
that when the time came for the Major to turn his face 
towards India, Geoff was by far the most disappointed 
of the couple. In the Persian Gulf they bade farewell 
to one another, Geoff trans-shipping on to a boat on 
its way to Suez. From there he went to England, 
where he spent a couple of years at one of the finest 
of our public schools. A short course at Aldershot 
followed; and then, on the eve of this tremendous 
conflict which had just broken out between the Kaiser 
and his hosts, and the free nations of Europe, and in 
which Great Britain had just commenced to take her 
part, Geoff Keith had taken ship for India once more, 
where a commission already awaited him in the 
Indian army. 

To look at the young fellow you would not have 
imagined for a moment that he was in any particular 
way accomplished. Moderately tall and straight, he 
was as jolly as a sand-boy, and as careless as a boy of 
fifteen. Yet there was a deep look about the eyes 
which, to those who took the trouble to notice it, gave 
signs of something better, of serious thought in fact, 
of accomplishments hidden by his joyous manner. 
To be precise, you would not for a moment have 
imagined that Geoff could speak Hindustani just as 
well as he could speak English ; that he could 
gabble Turkish in the markets of Bagdad with such 
ease and such precision that even a native would not 
have suspected him — that is, provided he were 
dressed as a subject of the Sultan. In addition, 
there was his knowledge of those Arabic tongues, 
knowledge imparted at first by his guardian, and 



30 On the Road to Bagdad 

since then improved and perfected by residence in 
the country. 

''Great accomplishments!" you will say. And yet 
so easily and so gradually acquired — for youth makes 
light of such matters — that Geoff was not conscious of 
his accomplishments. He was, in fact, just the care- 
less, happy-go-lucky fellow we have endeavoured to 
describe him. Not conceited in the least, but merely 
a very ordinary specimen of British youthful humanity. 

*' Mesopotamia!" he shouted, when the news of their 
proposed expedition reached him. "George! That's 
splendid!" 

''Ripping!" echoed Philip, extracting a cigarette 
from his pocket and lighting it with a most elaborate 
show of unconcern, and yet with fingers which 
trembled as they held a lighted match to the end of it. 
"Ripping! How awfully lucky for the whole lot of 
us that you've been to that country! You have, 
haven't you? But — where on earth is it? I'll confess 
at once that geography isn't a strong subject with me, 
and even now I haven't done much more than conquer 
the bare outline of India. Of course a fellow knows 
that Mesopotamia is somewhere adjacent to Persia, 
and Persia, if I remember rightly, isn't so frightfully 
far away from Turkey and Afghanistan. How far'll 
we be away from our Russian allies there? And, 
I say ! I suppose it'll be a ' walk-over ' I " 

Geoff grinned back at his companion. 

"Don't you think it!" he told him, his face now 
serious. " The average fellow seems to have got hold 
of the idea that the Turk is a lazy, idle, good-for- 
nothing, easy-going beggar, who'll hold up his hands 
and go under immediately war is declared on him. 



Geoffrey Keith and Another 31 

Why, I was reading a paragraph in the paper last 
evening which told us that Turkey was committing 
suicide by joining forces with Germany, and that 
Russia and England between them would mop her 
up and sweep her out of Europe." 

Philip looked puzzled. When he said he had no 
great affection for geography, and had no particularly 
good bump of locality, he told his chum only the bare 
truth. To be quite candid, and yet essentially friendly 
with reference to Geoff's friend, we have to say that 
not even Geoff could have described this young officer 
as brilliant. He was just a gay, light-hearted, and, 
when he liked, an energetic and useful officer. When 
he liked to apply himself to his profession, or indeed 
to any other work of not too exacting a character, 
Philip could do as well as any other, though, to be 
sure, he did not shine as a rule. As a soldier, he was 
no better and no worse than his fellows, only his gay- 
ness of heart and his natural dash and courage might 
easily, under circumstances of exceptional stress, bring 
him to the fore and make him conspicuous. But, to 
speak bluntly, Philip was a bit of a dunce, and had 
lived his short life so far without taking extraordinary 
notice of his immediate surroundings, and of the 
world in general. 

'* Half a mo' !" he said, blowing a cloud of smoke in 
GeofPs direction. ''What's that? Turkey in Europe! 
But Mesopotamia's Asia, isn't it? Here's a pencil, 
my boy, and here's a copy of to-day's 'orders'. 
Just you sketch out on the back of it the outline of 
Mesopotamia. I'm not such a fool that I can't follow 
a sketch when it's made for me." 

A brother "sub" joined them at that moment, and 



32 On the Road to Bagdad 

as Geoff sketched diligently and drew in the outline of 
the Persian Gulf, of the Afghan frontier, and of Persia, 
another and yet another subaltern strolled up, till, 
quite unknown to him, a little group of officers were 
looking on over his shoulder. Then he suddenly 
became aware of their presence, and, colouring furi- 
ously, for the young fellow was essentially modest, 
he crumpled the paper up and threw it into a 
corner. 

** No you don't, my boy! No you don't!" said a 
well-known voice from behind his shoulder. *'We 
are all of us keen on knowing something more about 
the place we are bound for, and you are the only one 
amongst us who has ever been there. Take it as an 
order, Geoff". I'll guarantee that there shall be no 
larking, and I'm sure that every one of your brother 
officers wishes you to give us just a short lecture on 
the country called Mesopotamia." 

Under the circumstances it was not to be expected 
that a junior officer, so junior indeed as Geoff", could 
refuse the request — the order if you like to call it, 
though it was given so pleasantly — of one of his 
seniors. It was the senior captain, in fact, who was 
leaning over his shoulder, and who patted his arm 
encouragingly. 

** Fire ahead, Geoff"," he told him. '' It's not show- 
ing off! There's no swank about it! I'd like awfully to 
know all about this Mesopotamia. I'll admit the fact, 
before you young officers, that I'm just about as igno- 
rant as I can be. Up to now I never imagined that 
there were any Turks to speak of in the neighbour- 
hood of the Persian Gulf, so why on earth they should 
send an Expeditionary Force there from India is more 



Geoffrey Keith and Another 33 

than I can guess at. The Colonel says it's so that we 
shall protect the oil-supply which comes down from 
Persian territory to somewhere near the Gulf. Know 
it, Geoff?" 

"Yes, sir! And if you really won't think it's 
swank " 

** Of course not. Now, here's a piece of paper, and 
get on with it." 

To one who had visited the country, and, more than 
all, to one who had accompanied the studious Major 
Joseph Douglas, there was no difficulty in drawing a 
map which showed all the essential points in Meso- 
potamia. It was not exactly Geoff's fault that he knew 
a great deal about the country. Thanks to the tuitior 
of his kindly guardian, and the long discussions which 
that officer had so frequently indulged in, Geoff had 
contrived to visit Mesopotamia and live there, not a5 
an ordinary tourist might have done, but as an ex 
plorer. Brought into the closest contact with the 
Turk, the Persian, the Armenian, and the Jew, it was 
only natural that, with his guardian's help, he should 
have learnt something of the international situation as 
it concerned Turkey. A visit to Constantinople had 
shown him the more civilized side of the country, 
while the outbreak of the war between the Balkan 
Powers and Turkey, and the dissertations of Major 
Joe Douglas, had familiarized him more or less with 
the situation of Turkey in Europe. 

"Of course, there is the ^pipe' line," he told his 
listeners, "and, going by what Major Douglas has 
always told me, it cannot fail to be of great importance 
to Britain. You see, numbers of our battleships now 
use oil fuel almost exclusively." 

( 834 ) 3 



34 On the Road to Bagdad 

''Quite so! That's got it!" chimed in the senior 
officer. ''You've hit the nail on the head, Geoff. 
Go ahead!" 

"So an expedition to the head of the Persian Gulf 
may very well be for the sole purpose of protecting 
the oil-supply of the British Navy. As to why the 
Expedition should come from India rather than from 
England, I can say that anyone — any white man that 
is — who has been to Mesopotamia will know that it's 
a beast of a climate. As hot as India in the plains in 
the hot weather, and often enough, when the cold 
season comes along, bitterly cold and wet. But for 
the most part it is hot, and damp, and trying, so that 
native troops are far more suitable. There's the 
'pipe' line," he told his listeners, sketching in a line 
from the southern border of Persia. " It strikes across 
the desert to the east of the River Karun, and joins 
up with the Shatt-el-Arab, close to a place called 
Mohammera. I ought to explain that the Rivers 
Tigris and Euphrates join up somewhere in the region 
of Kurnah and Basra, and then flow on, picking up 
the River Karun and opening into the Persian Gulf 
some twenty miles farther down. As to Turks, of 
course the bulk of them are up country, particularly 
in the neighbourhood of Bagdad. But there are forti- 
fied posts along both rivers and right down to the 
mouth of the Shatt-el-Arab. At Basra there are quite 
a considerable number of Europeans and Indians, and 
they tell me that an increasing trade is done from 
that port. If we land somewhere about there we are 
sure to be opposed, and if there weren't any Turks 
there are any number of Arabs, some of whom, at 
least, are likely to be unfriendly." 



Geoffrey Keith and Another 35 

"So that there'll be fighting, eh?" asked the 
senior officer. 




Zobeir..'!'^ 
Barjisiyeh" ^OTi^ (p^'^Abada 



English Mites 
o j y> ao 30 40 JO 60 70 80 




Sketch Map of Mesopotamia 



** Plenty of it, I imagine," Geoff told him. '^ Those 
Arabs are wily beggars to deal with." 



36 On the Road to Bagdad 

^^And Where's Bagdad?" he was asked. ^'And 
how does it He compared with Constantinople?" 

^^ And what about Persia, and Russia, and Turke- 
stan, and Turkey in Europe?" demanded Philip, 
anxious to improve the occasion. 

Thus pressed, Geoff could not do other than sketch 
in the various positions, showing Persia to the east, 
and Russia where she abutted on Turkey in Asia, 
along the line of the Caucasus Mountains. Then, 
having shaded in the Black Sea, thus showing the 
southern shore of Russia and the Crimea, he sketched 
the Sea of Marmora and the Narrows, where, at the 
Dardanelles, the British fleet was so soon to be 
hammering. 

A glance at the map will show better than any 
description the chief features of the situation, and only 
a few words are needed to explain the intrusion of 
Turkey into the gigantic war which had so recently 
arisen. If one looks for the cause of Turkey's joining 
with Germany and Austria against the Powers of the 
Entente, one is bound to confess that no adequate 
reason can be discovered. Turkey had nothing to 
fear from Great Britain or from her allies; yet, for 
years Germany had been secretly scheming to expand 
her sway over Turkey. It may be conceded that, 
whereas, exclusive of Russia, the whole of Europe 
was highly industrialized, and the greater part of 
the *' middle East" that was easy to come at was 
already being busily developed by France or Great 
Britain, or others of the European nations, there yet 
remained the whole of Turkey in Asia and of Persia 
— a gigantic sweep of country — the natural riches 
of which were, still, not even tapped, and which, 



Geoffrey Keith and Another 37 

thanks to the listless idleness of the Turk, were likely 
to remain untapped until some European Power, with 
need for extending her commerce, swept upon the 
scene and took advantage of such golden oppor- 
tunities. 

Already Russia had brought a portion of Persia 
under her sway, while Great Britain had secured the 
other portion. No doubt, too, Russia had her eyes 
on the northern portion of Turkey in Asia, while 
Britain was not entirely ignorant of the riches lying 
undeveloped in Mesopotamia. What had once been, 
according to legend, the Garden of Eden, and, since 
the Turk had come upon the scene, had been utterly 
neglected, and had woefully depreciated till it had be- 
come hardly better than a barren desert, was capable 
of being coaxed back into its old condition. Riches, 
now hidden, might be won from the country by Western 
energy and resource, while the country, once firmly 
occupied by Germany or by any other nation, would 
open a way to the subjection of Persia and to an ap- 
proach upon India by way of Afghanistan. 

Let us say at once that Turkey had no adequate 
reason for joining in this vast struggle against Great 
Britain and her allies; but she was cajoled into that 
action. Perhaps her leaders were heavily bribed by 
the Germans, who themselves had reason enough in 
all conscience. The coming of Turkey into the conflict 
would of itself detain large forces both of Russia and 
of Great Britain ; and then again, supposing France 
and Britain and Russia to have been defeated in 
Europe, Germany would have a clear field in the 
*' middle East", with a prospect one day of even 
approaching India, and so of coming nearer to the 



38 On the Road to Bagdad 

consummation of that vastly ambitious scheme the 
Kaiser had set before him, of becoming the Ruler of 
the World. 

But Geoff and his brother officers cared not a rap for 
such thoughts. That little lesson in geography proved 
of vast assistance to them all, and the thought of fight- 
ing in the near future, of Turks and of Arabs, roused 
their excitement to the highest. A couple of weeks 
later they took train down-country, where the bustle 
about the port, the presence of other troops who were 
to take part in the expedition, and the sight of the 
transports they were to board brought their spirits to 
fever pitch. Two days later they set sail, and within 
a very short period found themselves steaming to the 
head of the Persian Gulf. Before the dusk fell that 
evening they were within sight of land, and had the 
huge felicity of seeing the gunboat which escorted 
them exchange shots with the Turkish forts at the 
mouth of the Shatt-el-Arab. It was the opening of 
their campaign. It was the first shot that many of 
them had heard discharged in actual warfare. 

^'Hurrah!" shouted Philip as he watched a shell 
bursting in the distance. '^To-morrow, my boy, we'll 
be in the thick of it." 



CHAPTER III 

The Persian Gulf 

What a scene of movement it was as the transport 
bearing the Expeditionary Force from India, destined 
to operate in Mesopotamia, steamed slowly up the 
Shatt-el-Arab, its naval escort proceeding ahead and 
gingerly feeling its way forward. Now and again 
excited Arabs were to be seen near the bank of the 
river, some of whom brandished their rifles, and then, 
as if fearing retaliation, disappeared amongst the 
palms. Women and children gazed in amazement 
at the armada which had come so unexpectedly to 
visit them, while the few Turks present looked on 
placidly — for your Turk is the most placid of all 
individuals. 

It was some way up the river that a site had been 
chosen for disembarkation, and, almost before Geoff 
and his chum Philip could have thought it possible, 
the troops were disembarking. 

"Of course they'll get off some of the cavalry at 
once," said Geoff, as he watched the horses being 
slung over the side. ** They'll go off on a recon- 
naissance, and we ought soon to hear whether the 
enemy are in the neighbourhood." 

"That's just what beats me," Philip rejoined, as 
he sucked at the inevitable cigarette. "Now you'd 



40 On the Road to Bagdad 

have thought that a chap like you would be sent 
with them, Geoff; for what do the officers with our 
Indian cavalry know of Mesopotamia, of the Turks, 
of the Arabs, and of all the different sorts of people 
you've told me of? They ought to be able to speak 
the native lingo, so as to cross-examine people. No 
one doubts that they are splendid horse-soldiers, but 
then, don't you know, there's a limit to a fellow's 
usefulness. 'Pon my word," he went on, getting 
quite indignant, *' I really can't imagine what the 
G.O.C. can be doing! I've a jolly good mind to 
somehow drop him a hint that there's a chap called 
Geoff Keith along with the expedition. Eh! Oh!" 

He gave a start as he turned round, for there was 
a movement on the deck immediately behind him. 
Geoff, too, who had been lounging on the rail of the 
ship, swung his form round to see what was happen- 
ing. There was a dusky soldier behind them — one 
of their own Mahrattas — standing, tall and thin and 
erect and motionless, as is the case with native 
soldiers. 

*' The Officer Sahib," he said, as he held out a tiny 
*'chit" (note). '' From the Colonel Sahib." 

It was perhaps characteristic of Philip that he 
seized the missive and glanced at the name written 
upon it. 

" What! Not me! It's you, Geoff!" he exclaimed 
almost indignantly, and certainly with disappoint- 
ment. '' My word! Wonder what it's about. Sup- 
posing the Colonel has done just as I suggested a 
moment ago, and has dropped a hint to the G.O.C. 
Open it, there's a good fellow, for I'm full of 
curiosity." 



The Persian Gulf 41 

Geoff obliged his friend in such leisurely style that 
Philip was almost stamping with impatience before 
the missive was opened, and then stretched out his 
long neck so as to be able to read the contents of the 
letter. 

''You will please report at my orderly room at 
once," was written in pencil, while below there was 
his Commanding Officer's signature. 

Philip whistled. 

"Oh!" he exclaimed, and then looked sideways 
somewhat quizzically at his friend. "Ructions, eh? 
Adjutant reported badly on you! Something wrong 
with your parade this morning, I shouldn't wonder. 
Anyway, 'bang goes' all hope of your getting special 
employment." 

To speak the truth, a feeling of dismay oppressed 
our hero as he glanced at those few words, while his 
brain got busily to work to discover the reason for 
the message. So far as he was aware, there had 
been no dereliction of duty for which he could be re- 
primanded. Indeed, Geoff's keenness was well known 
to the Adjutant and to his Commanding Officer. 
That the special knowledge he had of Mesopotamia 
should have anything to do with this sudden and 
unexpected summons never crossed his mind for a 
moment, in spite of Philip; for, after all, as we have 
said, Geoff was an extremely modest fellow, and made 
light of those unusual attainments which he had de- 
veloped by a visit to this ancient Garden of Eden. 
Colouring to the roots of his hair, he coughed loudly 
to clear his voice, and, pulling down his khaki twill 
jumper, set off for the orderly room at once. A knock 
on the open door was followed by a peremptory com- 



42 On the Road to Bagdad 

mand to enter, when he found himself face to face with 
his Commanding Officer. 

*'Ha! That you, young Keith? Sit down. Now 
look at that; it's a message from the Head-quarters of 
this expedition." 

Geoff took the paper with fingers which almost 
trembled, for surely, surely a message from the 
Commander-in-Chief concerning himself must have 
reference to something far transcending in importance 
the question of a trifling dereliction of duty on his 
part. 

*'My dear ," he read, ''I am told by one of 

my Staff Officers that Douglas's young ward is with 
the force, and that the young officer knows Mesopo- 
tamia and the native tongues. Please send him along 
to me at once." 

*'At once, you see," said the Colonel, smiling 
kindly at our hero; "that means a feather in your 
cap, my lad. But perhaps you'd rather stay with 
the Mahrattas, eh?" he asked quizzically, now laugh- 
ing loudly as he saw the puzzled expression which 
spread across Geoff's features. "There! There! 
Don't try to be polite," he told him. "I know ex- 
actly what you want to say; you're keen on your 
own regiment, and you'd like to work alongside the 
brother officers with whom you've been trained. You 
know well enough that, if there's any fighting to be 
done, the Mahrattas will be right in the midst of it; 
and, if they're not, it will be a piece of atrociously 
bad luck. But there's this other billet. Though you 
like your own regiment well enough, this order means 
special service. Now, Geoff, off you go without 
delay. You'll find the General ashore, and please 



The Persian Gulf 43 

give my compliments to him, and hand him this 
*chit'." 

A little more than ten minutes later, with his sword 
buckled on, his revolver in place, and with his full 
kit in evidence, Geoff clattered down the gangway 
and swung along the strand, and halted in front of 
the native house where the General had taken up his 
quarters. He was ushered in at once by one of the 
Staff Officers, and found himself face to face with the 
brilliant soldier who had sent for him. We admit 
only the bare truth when we state that it was a trying 
moment for our hero, for, after all, subalterns — junior 
subalterns in particular — are very small fry as com- 
pared with General Officers, and, unless cram-full of 
assurance, are apt to feel extremely insignificant, 
almost humble, in fact, when brought face to face 
with an officer of lifelong experience. Yet Geoff had 
been born and brought up with the Indian army. 
Standing stiffly at attention, he returned the General's 
gaze with a gaze which was as frank, as unflinching, 
and almost as politely inquisitive as that which had 
been turned on him. 

'' Mr. Keith, sir," one of the Staff Officers told the 
General. '' You sent a note to the Officer Command- 
ing the Mahrattas, asking him to send this young 
officer to you. You will remember, sir, that he is 
the son of Major Robert Keith, killed in that Frontier 
Expedition in which you served, and that Major 
Douglas has acted as his guardian." 

That brought another penetrating glance in Geoff's 
direction — a glance which seemed to take in every 
characteristic of the young fellow standing so stiffly at 
attention: his tall, stout, active figure, his clean-cut 



44 On the Road to Bagdad 

person, his undoubtedly refined and gentleman-like 
face, and the intelligence which gleamed from behind 
the dark eyes which were turned still politely, yet 
unflinchingly, upon the General. 

The latter cleared his throat, and brushed away the 
flies which were hovering in myriads about him. 

'* Of course," he said brusquely, '* I remember 
perfectly. Mr. Keith, I understand that you have 
been in Mesopotamia with Major Douglas; please 
let me have some further information. I imagine 
that you must have gone up country. What more?" 

Thus encouraged, Geoff promptly stated how he 
and his old friend had ventured to Bagdad and be- 
yond, and had spent months in the country, some- 
times in a native city or village, sometimes amongst 
the Armenians or Arabs, and often enough in the 
heart of some purely Turkish city. 

*' And you speak Turkish?" came the sharp ques- 
tion. 

''Yes, sir." 

'' Well? Quite fluently, I mean." 

'* Like a native, I believe, sir," said Geoff modestly. 

*' Um! And Arabic? and other tongues?" 

'' Almost as well, sir." 

*' You can ride, of course?" 

** Certainly," said Geoff. 

There was a long pause, whilst the General once 
more inflicted upon Geoff that cold, stern, penetrat- 
ing, yet kindly glance of his. Evidently he was 
thinking deeply, and just as evidently he was sum- 
ming up the character of the young fellow standing 
at attention before him. 

*' Remember his father well," he was saying to 



The Persian Gulf 45 

himself; ** he was a nice, clean-cut fellow, like the boy 
here; and, of course, everyone knows Joe Douglas, 
one of the best officers, one of the best ^ politicals ', 
India has ever possessed. This youngster looks as 
though he would go through fire and water to carry 
out his duties. I like his modesty, both of speech 
and of appearance, and, by Jove! he ought to be 
a very valuable addition to us. 

'' Attached to the Head-quarters Staff," he suddenly 
blurted out, turning to his Staff Officer. '' Mr. Keith, 
I should be glad to avail myself of your services, but 
please understand that they may very well bring you 
into circumstances of very considerable danger. Re- 
collect that we are now at war with Turkey, while 
your previous visit was made at a time when there 
was peace between us. That may very well have 
brought about a drastic change in the usually gentle 
Turk; and to be captured by them might result in 
serious consequences. I mention this question of un- 
usual danger, seeing that you are such a young officer, 
and, of course, should you prefer to go back to your 
regiment, there is nothing to prevent you." 

Would he prefer to go back to the Mahrattas? 
Why, Geoff's two legs were simply twitching and 
shaking so violently with excitement that he could 
hardly keep his knees from hammering together. It 
wasn't fright. The officer facing him knew that well 
enough. It was merely keenness — keenness for the 
work to be entrusted to him. It wasn't necessary 
even for Geoff to give a verbal answer; his decision 
was written all over his face. Why, he was simply 
dying for some form of active employment. It was 
a relief, then, to receive a kindly nod of dismissal 



46 On the Road to Bagdad 

from the General, and to retire precipitately from his 
presence. Outside the native hut a hand was laid 
firmly on his shoulder, and once more he found him- 
self addressed by the Staff Officer. 

*' We want you at once," he said. ''You'd better 
go on board and get rid of all this kit as soon as 
possible." 

''Yes, sir." 

"And of course you've got your own saddlery 

and gear of that sort." 

Geoff promptly assured the officer that he was fully 
equipped, and as a matter of fact had brought his own 
stout little Arab with him. 

"Then bustle, my lad. We've a couple of troops 
of cavalry ready disembarked, and are anxious to find 
out what the Turks are doing. You'll go with them, 
and I needn't tell you that you'll do your utmost to 
help the officer who goes in command. You'll be 
under his orders, of course, and I feel sure that you'll 
be able to render very great assistance. Don't forget 
to take your water-bottle with you, and some food too; 
but there, I was forgetting that I'm talking to a young 
officer who knows the ground and has been in Meso- 
potamia before. Still, there are no hotels in these 
days, I imagine, though it is to be hoped that we shall 
come across friendly inhabitants, ready to feed us if 
need be, and prepared to give us a welcome." 

Geoff went along that strand as if he were possessed 
of wings, and raced up the gangway. 

" Half a mo'! Why in such a hurry? Look here, 
Geoff, what's all the ruction about? You've been to 
Head-quarters, haven't you? My word! That means 
something — either a frightful ruction and summary 



The Persian Gulf 47 

dismissal, if not a general court-martial, and shooting 
in the cold, early morning, or — or — what does it 
mean?" demanded Philip, gripping the unwilling 
Geoff by the arm and firmly retaining him. 

It was no use attempting to shake off his friend, or 
to plead that he was in a hurry and that there was no 
time for delay. The utmost that Geoff could do was 
to bid Philip follow him down to his cabin, where he 
at once began to throw off certain of his kit and rum- 
mage for other items amongst his half-packed baggage. 
A shout brought his native servant, and another shout 
was echoed along the ship and soon sent his syce 
racing towards him. 

*' You'll get Sultan disembarked at once, with all 
his blankets and clothing," commanded Geoff. '* Just 
run him up and down a little once you get him ashore, 
for he'll be stiff after the voyage. Now, my beauty," 
he went on, addressing his native servant, '^ just look 
lively with it, for I'm due back at Head-quarters in a 
few minutes." 

''And what's the game?" demanded Philip insis- 
tently, impatiently in fact, already envying his chum 
immensely. Not that he was jealous of Geoff at all, 
for, if Philip were himself eager for some form of 
special service, he knew at least that Geoff had special 
attainments, special knowledge which fitted him for 
a post of that description. How Philip bewailed the 
fact that in his younger days — though to be sure he 
was still only a youngster — he had made such ill use 
of his opportunities. For, like his friend, Philip had 
been born in a cantonment, had lived the better part 
of his young life in one or other of the hill stations in 
India, and had grown up in the atmosphere which 



48 On the Road to Bagdad 

surrounds the army in British India. Hindustani and 
native dialects had come naturally to him, had been 
acquired without effort when he was a mere slip of a 
lad, but Turkish, that was an altogether different 
question. 

*' Well," he demanded eagerly, ^* you've got a job, 
have you? A special job, Geoff? Congratulations!" 

He smacked his friend heartily on the back when he 
had heard the whole story, and emitted a shrill whistle 
of amazement, perhaps even of envy, when Geoff told 
him that he was to be attached to Head-quarters. 

*' Well, that's going it!" he exclaimed. *' Attached 
to Head-quarters, eh! And just off on a reconnais- 
sance. Mind you ain't captured, Geoff, for I've a very 
particular reason, and I'll tell you what it is. What's 
the good of my being chums with a fellow whose 
attached to Head-quarters for special service if that 
chap can't somehow or other squeeze me in one of 
these days and take me along with him? That would 
be fine, wouldn't it, Geoff? One of these days you'll 
probably want to sneak off, dressed as an Arab or 
something of that sort. How'd I do to come with 

you, even if only as a humble servant? But then 

Oh, hang it! There's the language! But never 
mind, somehow or other you'll manage to take me 
with you." 

Not for one moment did the eager Philip cease to 
chatter and cross-examine Geoff, as the latter and his 
servant plunged into the midst of the half- packed 
baggage and extracted sundry articles likely to be of 
use to him. As to agreeing to take Philip with him 
on some expedition, of course Geoff could not even 
give so much as. a thought to the matter at that 



The Persian Gulf 49 

moment, though, to be sure, as he told himself, hav- 
ing Philip with him would be tremendous fun, and 
would add to his enjoyment. However, there was 
little time for thought, and none for discussion. In 
the course of half an hour he had selected all the kit 
he required, and had dispatched his servant ashore 
with the remainder. Then he dived down to the 
orderly room to formally report his impending depar- 
ture, while he received the congratulations of his Com- 
manding Officer and the Adjutant. 

** Don't forget, Keith, you're one of the Mahrattas," 
he was told, "and the regiment looks to you to main- 
tain its high reputation wherever you may go. But 
you'll do that, Geoff. I knew your father, and if I 
know you at all — and I ought to seeing that you've 
been trained under my eye — you'll follow in his foot- 
steps, and will do well in the post for which you've 
been selected." 

A firm grip of Philip's hand as he stepped upon the 
gangway, a cheery good-bye, and a nod to others of 
his brother-officers, and Geoff was ashore, where the 
first object that his eyes lit upon was Sultan being 
walked up and down the strand, tossing his handsome 
head and shaking his mane, caracolling, and looking 
as if sugh a thing as a voyage from India were of no 
consequence. Patting his animal and talking to him 
for a few moments, Geoff then went on briskly to the 
native hut selected as Head-quarters, near which the 
two troops of Indian Horse he had been told were 
about to move away on a reconnaissance were already 
drawn up, the men at their horses' heads, standing 
expectant and immovable, and the officers strolling 
to and fro, smoking cigarettes and showing as much 
( c 834 ) 4 



50 On the Road to Bagdad 

impatience as any of the soldiers. Striding- up to 
the senior of the officers, Geoff at once reported him- 
self. 

''I've been ordered to accompany you, sir," he said. 
** Lieutenant Keith, Mahrattas." 

**And glad to meet you, Keith," came the hearty 
answer, whilst his hand was gripped. " I understand 
you've been in Mesopotamia, and know something 
of the country and the languages. Ward of my old 
friend, Joe Douglas, aren't you?" 

It made Geoff glow with pride to hear so many 
eulogistic remarks made concerning the old friend 
who 'had cared for him now for so many years, and 
who indeed had filled the place of his father. That 
Major Joe Douglas was appreciated wherever he was 
known in the Indian army — and to be sure this 
** political" was known in very many stations, and to 
a host of officers — was a fact that Geoff could not fail 
to know, for in India all that concerns the army is 
known by its officers. Yet to hear him spoken of 
so very highly now by senior officers, to hear him 
eulogized, and to realize that the welcome extended to 
himself, Geoff Keith, was due, in part at least, to the 
old friendships made by his guardian, could not fail 
to make every impression on our hero. It made him 
then and there register a silent vow that, come what 
might, he would do nothing that would not reflect 
favourably upon the Major. 

'' He stood by me all these years," he thought, '' he 
taught me all I know, though I fear I am still very 
young and an ignoramus. But he's tried hard I know 
to impart all his own special knowledge to me, and 
he's given me chances that many a young officer 



The Persian Gulf 51 

would give his ears for. Right! I've got to remember 
that always ; and if I don't carry out this job to the 
satisfaction of my seniors, well I'll just deserve kick- 
ing." 

The voice of the officer commanding the Indian 
Horse awakened him from the short reverie into which 
he had fallen. 

''We'll be off in five minutes," he told Geoff; 
''we're just waiting for maps of the country to be 
issued, and for special instructions from Head-quarters. 
Now, Keith, since you've reported, I presume that 
you're quite ready to move off with us." 

"Quite, sir!" Geoff told him with energy. 

"Then what about a mount? Of course you will 
have brought one, seeing that all Indian officers are 
mounted, but if by chance your horse has not yet been 
disembarked, we'll leave one of our men behind and 
you can make use of his mount for the time being." 

Geoff turned at once, and, looking towards the strand 
where Sultan was being exercised, signalled to his 
syce to bring him along immediately. A minute later 
Sultan was prancing and circling close at hand — the 
admired of all admirers. 

" 'Pon my word, Keith, I admire your choice of 
horse-flesh," the officer told Geoff with enthusiasm 
as he walked slowly round the fretful Sultan, noting 
every handsome point. " No need to ask you whether 
you can ride or whether you've only recently gone 
through a school of instruction, for no fellow would 
dare to put his leg over that beast who hadn't had any 
amount of experience. Easy to handle, eh?" he asked, 
bending down, the better to take a look at Sultan's 
feet and legs. " My word ! but there's pace there, and 



52 On the Road to Bagdad 

there's strength in those shoulders, while, if I know 
a horse at all, this fellow will be a stayer." 

If you had wanted to give Geoff Keith some par- 
ticularly great pleasure, or desired to pay him some 
extraordinary compliment, you could not have done 
it better or more easily than by admiring Sultan. 
Let us explain at once that Sultan had once upon a 
time belonged to Major Douglas — indeed, he had 
been bred by the Major, and came of a famous stable. 
He had, one might almost say, grown up with our 
hero; though to be sure he was yet only a six-year- 
old, full of life and youth and strength. Nor had 
Geoff's temporary absence from India in Mesopo- 
tamia, and during those months he had spent in 
England, been sufficient to allow Sultan to forget his 
young master. It was with a whinny of pleasure 
that he had greeted his return to the ''Shiney", and 
though there were many who would not have dared 
to mount the animal, and, indeed, few whom Sultan 
would allow to ride him, yet in the hands of Geoff 
Keith this fiery beast became as gentle as a lamb, 
as docile and as easily handled as any horse. To 
be short and explicit. Sultan was a most splendid 
Arab, one in a thousand, and a steed of which even 
a General would have been proud, and the possession 
of which might easily have turned the head of any 
junior subaltern. 

*' A nice little horse. Yes, as nice a little horse as 
ever I set eyes on," declared the officer in command 
of the two troops of Indian cavalry, as he paced round 
Sultan, patting him now and again, talking to him, 
and admiring his handsome points and his general 
appearance. ''A grey was always my fancy, Keith, 



The Persian Gulf 53 

but they want a heap of handling. Let's see what he 
looks like with a man on his back. I'll wager that 
his paces are as good as his looks; trot him along, 
lad, and open him out a little. Our horses have 
already had a gallop, and they needed it after their 
confinement on board ship." 

It was with a keen discerning eye that the officer 
watched Geoff pick up his reins and swing himself 
into the saddle. It was all done in an instant, though, 
indeed, the fretful Sultan made it difficult for anyone 
to mount him. But a word from Geoff quieted him 
for just a few seconds, and in that brief space of time 
the lad had gripped his mane, had thrust one foot into 
the stirrup, and was well home in his saddle. 

**Let go!" Geoff told the syce, and there for a 
moment he sat motionless. Sultan standing as still 
as any statue — his head thrown back, his muzzle 
raised, and his eyes gleaming wickedly. Then with 
a bound he leapt to one side — a leap which would 
have thrown the average rider — and a second later, 
shaking his head free, he went off towards the desert 
like the wind, as if determined to have his freedom. 

''Steady! Steady, boy, steady!" said Geoff, hold- 
ing him firmly with the reins. '' You're here to do 
what I want and not what you want; and, besides, 
a burst of speed so soon after coming ashore might 
be bad for you; you're coming back to let those 
officers take a good look at you." 

The mad impulse of the Arab to be off, to be 
galloping wildly across the loose sand and gravel 
thereabouts, to be hurtling amongst the palms which 
covered the country-side, was controlled in an instant, 
and with such little effort that those officers who 



54 On the Road to Bagdad 

watched could not discern it. Geoff brought his 
mount back towards the troops of horse at a steady- 
trot, a trot in which Sultan showed magnificent action, 
so much so that riding him gracefully was a matter 
of difficulty. Then a gentle pressure of the reins 
again brought him to a standstill, his feet well 
spread, his head held high, those eyes of his gleam- 
ing and shining. Indeed, all could see the spirit of 
the horse, and none were surprised when, a moment 
later, as the Officer in Command approached. Sultan 
rose on his hind legs and thrashed the air, Geoff 
sitting him and talking to him gently. 

*^A very handsome piece of goods, Keith," he 
heard, '^'pon my word! I'm as envious as I can be; 
but in fairness to all of us you ought to take him out 
a little bit and give him a breather. Gently at first, 
and then some quick pace, so as to let him get rid of 
a little of that spirit. Otherwise he'll be kicking 
other horses in the ranks or disabling one of the 
officers." 

A gentle word from Geoff, the merest relaxation of 
the reins, and Sultan was off again, but curbed this 
time ever so gently; off at a trot again, showing that 
magnificent action with his fore legs, his quarters 
gleaming in the sunshine. And, slowly as they went, 
the pace increased till it became a canter, which 
Geoff allowed his mount to keep up until they had 
covered a good mile of desert — until, in fact, he was 
well out in the open and away from the palms which 
spread themselves some distance from the bank of the 
river. Then he pulled up his mount and patted him 
on the shoulder. 

** That's your first breather, old chap!" he said; 



The Persian Gulf 55 

*^now I'll allow you to have a burst of speed till we 
are near the trees again, just to get rid of the devil 
in you. After that you'll behave yourself, and go 
along quietly like the rest of them. Now off!" 

*^ Handles the beast as if born to it," declared the 
Commanding Officer, as he watched the figures of 
man and horse racing towards him, while his brother 
officers crowded about him. '*That lad has hands 
and a seat to be proud of, and the beast he rides is 
the best bit of horse-flesh I've seen — and that's saying 
something." 

There was no doubt, in fact, that Geoff's arrival 
on the scene, his unexpected attachment to these 
horse-soldiers, his unconscious exhibition of horse- 
manship, and his possession of that fine Arab, had 
created quite an enviable impression upon the officers 
who were to be his companions. 

**A young chap, such as he was, who could ride 
so well, who had the pluck to manage such a horse, 
must be a good fellow," they told themselves; and, 
thinking that, the information which was now given 
them — that Geoff was no new-comer to Mesopotamia, 
but had spent some months there with a famous 
Indian ''political", and even knew the languages — 
prepossessed them still more in his favour. 

''You'll do, my lad," the Commanding Officer 
whispered in his ear some few minutes later, when 
Geoff had dismounted, and had handed over Sultan 
to the syce. " It wants judgment to ride a beast like 
that, and judgment's the virtue required for the job 
to which you have been appointed. Now, Keith, our 
orders have come, and here are the maps; pop this 
one into your map-case. I shall take the troops up 



56 On the Road to Bagdad 

beside the river towards Basra, and if it seems neces- 
sary I shall send one troop off to my right to see 
what's happening farther out in the desert." 

There were sharp words of command, and then a 
whistle blew, at which those stalwart Indian soldiers 
mounted their horses as one man, and sat there like so 
many dusky statues; then the whistle sounded again, 
and the cavalcade moved off, Geoff, at the invitation 
of the Commanding Officer, riding beside him. 

It was as well, perhaps, for our hero that he was 
all unconscious of the fact that those Indian cavalry 
officers were not the only witnesses of that exhibition 
he had given with Sultan, and that other eyes than 
the curious ones of the natives of those parts followed 
the troops of horse, and his own upright figure, as 
they swung away from the site of disembarkation. It 
might have turned his head, and robbed him of his 
natural modesty, had he known that numbers of the 
Head-quarters Staff were outside their hut, looking 
on at this first movement of the expedition in Meso- 
potamia; and it would most certainly have caused a 
flush to rise to> his cheeks, and possibly, had he not 
been a steady, sensible fellow, might have induced 
a degree of swollen-headedness, had he been able to 
hear the remarks of some of those senior officers. For, 
like those with the Indian horse, they, too, had fixed 
their eyes on Sultan, had seen the masterly way in 
which he was managed, and had admired the horse- 
manship of this new-comer amongst junior officers. 

**He's a find," declared one of the Staff Officers, 
**and I'll eat my hat if young Keith doesn't prove 
a most promising officer!" 

But that was a question for the future. To make 



The Persian Gulf 57 

good resolutions, to register silent vows, is, after all, 
a very easy matter, and one to which we all of us are 
prone. Promises are, we know, very much like pie- 
crust, so easily are they broken, and good intentions 
and vows, made ever so solemnly and so secretly, are 
difficult to keep. Would Geoff, with all his youthful 
enthusiasm, with all his keenness, with his undoubted 
steadiness of character, do well? Or would he prove 
only an egregious failure? 

*'Trot!" The command rang out loudly, and in 
a moment the troops of horse were swinging away 
across the now fast-opening desert, their horses' feet 
kicking up clouds of sandy dust and gravel debris. 
Those palms were left behind in a trice it seemed, 
and within half an hour the landing-place was little 
more than a memory. It was perhaps two hours later 
when an officers' patrol, which had been riding well 
in advance, signalled the troops to halt, and one of 
their number came back at a gallop. 

*^ A strong force of horsemen away on our left front, 
sir," he reported. *' Turks, I think, but I am by no 
means certain." 

''Halt! Mr. Keith, you will ride forward to the 
patrol, and if necessary beyond them. Let me have 
your report at the first possible moment," came the 
sharp order. 

A second later Sultan was bounding forward, and 
in a little while Geoff had joined the officers' patrol 
at the point where they had now halted. Yes, there 
was a force of horsemen away in front, and to all 
appearances the campaign in Mesopotamia was about 
to open. 



CHAPTER IV 

The First Encounter 

*^ There! Over there you can see a mass of horse- 
men, and I think there are infantry just behind them," 
said DagHsh, one of the officers forming the patrol 
which had gone out in front of the two troops of Indian 
Horse sent out to reconnoitre. When Geoff pulled 
up his Arab, Sultan, he found close beside him the 
young officer who had just spoken, standing with his 
reins hooked over one arm, his feet wide apart and 
sunk almost to the ankles in the soft sand of the desert, 
and his glasses glued to his eyes, as he surveyed the 
ground to his left front, adjacent to the River Shatt- 
el-Arab. 

'* Hang it!" Geoff heard him say as he too dropped 
from his saddle and let his reins fall on Sultan's neck 
— for Sultan had been trained by the knowing and 
experienced Joe Douglas to stand as still and as steady 
as a rock without a rider, so long as his reins were 
left in that position. 

" Hang it, Keith ! there's a sort of a mist out there, 
and while just a second ago I could have sworn that 
there were several hundred horsemen, either Turkish 
or Arab, there is now nothing but shimmering water 
and palm-trees and houses, and a devil of a big 
village." 



m^ 



The First Encounter 59 

Daglish, a young, spirited, and handsome cavalry 
officer, dropped his glasses and let them dangle 
about his neck, while he turned impatiently towards 
Geoff. 

" See!" he cried, stretching his hand out. *' Look 
for yourself, Keith; there's the village yonder and 
hundreds of palm-trees round it; but it can't have 
sprung up in a moment, and can't have taken the 
place of those horsemen. What's it mean?" 

The line the officers' patrol had taken had brought 
them to a low elevation — for though the estuary of the 
Tigris and the Euphrates is more or less flat, and the 
greater part of it but desert country, the ground rises 
here and there almost imperceptibly into hard gravel 
patches, and it was on the summit of one of these that 
the patrol had halted, and from which they had first 
sighted what was taken to be enemy horsemen, and 
which now, to the amazement of the officer, had 
developed into merely a native village. Pulling out 
his glasses, Geoff first of all surveyed the scene with- 
out their aid, and noticed that from the slight elevation 
to which they had attained he was able to look down 
upon the course of the river as it ran through a broad 
belt of green palm-trees. He could see stretches of 
the water flashing here and there under the brilliant 
rays of the sun. Elsewhere peeps of it only were 
obtainable, while in other parts the brilliant reflection 
from its surface shot through a thousand apertures 
between the trunks of the palms, the light almost 
dazzling him as it reached him. It was to a point, 
perhaps more than a mile away, and just outside the 
closest belt of palm-trees, that Daglish was pointing, 
and as Geoff looked in that direction he too saw a 



6o On the Road to Bagdad 

native village embowered in palms, its white houses 
gleaming faintly across the yellow stretches of desert. 

''Well?" Daglish asked him impatiently. 

Geoff smiled. 

''Just a mirage," he told his companion. "They 
are funny things till you get used to them, and you 
have to come and live in this country for quite a while 
often before you get a chance. Before now I've seen a 
whole Turkish city rise up before me out of the desert, 
looking wonderfully realistic, with people moving 
about, and horses, and asses, and dogs in all direc- 
tions. Then I've gone on a little way, or gone back, 
and the whole scene has vanished. That's a mirage. 
Some trick of the sun's rays playing upon the atmos- 
phere spread out over the desert. How it's brought 
about beats me altogether; but it's real enough when 
one sees it, and equally elusive when one's moved 
from one's position. Let's walk our horses across 
here to the left; we needn't trouble to go downhill at 
all, for if you have seen the enemy horsemen out there 
in the open, they will most distinctly have seen you 
up here on this little bit of an eminence." 

Leading their horses, they strode off some distance 
to their left, sinking ankle-deep into the sand ai 
almost every stride. There were three of them by 
now, for Harmer, another of the Indian cavalry 
officers — the one who had come back to make his 
report — had joined them; and as they went, each one 
cast glances over his left shoulder, till of a sudden 
Daglish gave a cry of delight. 

" I was beginning to doubt you, Keith," he said 
with energy; "but now, by James! you are right. 
That must have been a mirage, though I have never 



The First Encounter 6i 

seen one before in all my life. The native village has 
gone completely; and look at those horsemen!" 

They came to an abrupt halt, the three wheeling 
round at once and raising their glasses. 

'*Eh! What do you make of 'em?" Daglish said, 
when a minute had passed during which Geoff fo- 
cused the distant horsemen carefully and watched 
them critically. "Turks, eh? Or Arabs?" 

*' A mixed force," Geoff' told him promptly. " Arab 
horsemen, perhaps two or three hundred strong, and 
Turkish infantry behind them ; there are no guns with 
them, so I take it that it's simply a reconnoitring force, 
or maybe it's a garrison, from some point lower down 
the river, retiring before us." 

*'Then the sooner we send back to our fellows the 
better," cried Daglish. ''There's open ground before 
us, and the two troops could operate so as to drive in 
a blow at those fellows." 

Pulling his notebook from his pocket he wrote a few 
hurried lines, and, having folded the ''chit" up, he 
addressed it to his commanding officer. 

"Take it back, Harmer," he ordered. "You can 
tell them that Keith and I will go on a little and make 
out those fellows a trifle more clearly." 

A minute later the third of the officers was in his 
saddle and galloping back towards their comrades, 
whom they had left some distance away, halting at 
the bottom of this long sloping eminence. Then 
Geoff and Daglish climbed into their saddles and 
urged their horses forward, Geoff looking critically at 
the mount upon which his companion was riding. 

" Better go easily, Daglish," he told him, " for that 
little horse of yours doesn't look as though he was 



62 On the Road to Bagdad 

fast, and I can tell you many of those Arab horsemen 
are superbly mounted. We can go on a little way, of 
course, and then, if it's the same to you, I'll push on 
still closer, for there's not a horse yonder that can 
even look at Sultan." 

It was perhaps five minutes later when the two drew 
rein, for even though Daglish was full of energy and 
enthusiasm, and indeed was a brilliant cavalry officer, 
yet he was not devoid entirely of discretion. Though 
he was itching with eagerness to get to grips with the 
enemy, and to come to close quarters, he could not fail 
to realize the weight of the warning which Geoff had 
given him; nor, having seen that little exhibition 
which Sultan and his master had given them so close 
to the place of disembarkation, could he doubt that 
there were few who could come up to the magnificent 
Arab Geoff was riding. 

''All right!" he told Geoff, a little reluctantly, as 
he pulled in his horse. '' I'll stay here and keep my 
glasses on them, while you go on a little. Now, don't 
be reckless ; for recollect you are of some value to the 
expedition, seeing that you speak the lingo." 

Shaking his reins, Geoff set Sultan in motion, while 
Daglish watched him for a while as he cantered towards 
the enemy; then he threw up his glasses, and, fixing 
them upon the Arab horsemen, watched their waving 
lines, the chiefs who sat their horses in front of them, 
and one man in particular, who cantered slowly along 
their front — his white cloak thrown back, his dusky 
arm bare, the weapons he was carrying distinctly 
visible. It was fascinating to watch that gallant horse- 
man, for a fine sight this Arab made. He pulled in 
his horse after a while in front of his men, and from 



The First Encounter 63 

the movements of his head it seemed as if he must be 
haranguing them ; then of a sudden he stood in his 
stirrups and flung the pistol he was carrying high in 
the air, while an instant later there rolled musically 
across the desert the sound of shouting — a sound un- 
familiar to Daglish's ears. 

''Allah!" he heard; ''Allah!" That weird, ma- 
jestic, inspiring call of the Arab. It made the young 
officer almost twitch; made him admire those horse- 
men even more, and made him start violently when 
a second later he saw through his glasses that self- 
same chief swing his horse round, shield his eyes with 
one hand as he stared in Geoff's direction, and then 
set his horse going at a mad pace which promised 
to bring him rapidly up to him. Almost at the same 
instant the Turkish infantry — a mere handful of men 
— who had been hidden behind the horsemen almost 
completely, debouched into the open at their left, and 
at once the sharp rattle of rifle-fire came echoing across 
the desert. As for Geoff, he heard the sounds and saw 
that horseman. Little puffs of sand began to rise up 
all round him, while now and again something buzzed 
past his head, humming its way on into the distance. 

"Near enough," he told himself coolly, pulling 
Sultan up, while he felt for his glasses; then, dropping 
his reins, he focused the enemy again, and took very 
careful stock of them. "Doubt if there are three 
hundred horsemen there," he thought; " two hundred 
is more like their number, and a mere handful of 
Turkish infantry I should say, though having infantry 
with them points to the fact that they are a garrison 
retiring up river. And what's that chief mean by 
riding out like that in front of all his people? Any- 



64 On the Road to Bagdad 

way, he's now between the infantry and me, and that 
will put a stop to those bullets." 

If he could, Daglish would have shouted to his 
companion so far ahead, and for a while he was con- 
sumed with the fear that Geoff had failed to notice 
that single horseman, that magnificently mounted 
chief, who came galloping across the desert. Then 
he swung himself into the saddle, and, gripping his 
reins, sat motionless, watching the figure of his com- 
rade. 

Ah! Geoff was beginning to move a little. He 
had dropped his glasses, and, peenng at him through 
his own, Dalglish saw that he had opened the pouch 
containing his revolver. 

** Confound the chap!" he exclaimed. *'Does he 
mean to stay out there and have a single-handed 
encounter with that beggar? If I'd have thought that 
possible I'd have sent the idiot back long ago." 

Then he dropped his glasses again and sat spell- 
bound, peering across the desert, longing for Geoff's 
return, and yet hoping, in spite of himself, that the 
young officer who had so recently joined them would 
stand his ground, would face this Arab enemy, and 
would show right at the commencement of this com- 
ing campaign that an Englishman was not to be 
frightened easily. 

''Steady does it!" Geoff was saying to himself as 
he watched the furious approach of the Arab. "By 
the time he gets up to me his horse will be winded, 
and he'll be considerably shaken ; that will be my 
chance, and, by George! I'll take it. A captive at 
this stage would be a tremendous thing for the 
General; for once an Arab sees that the game is up, 



The First Encounter 65 

and once he realizes that rewards are given for infor- 
mation, he will speak, will speak the truth, indeed. 
That's one of the curious parts about these Arabs — 
they've no fondness for the Turks, though many of 
them will fight for them, seeing that we are heathen 
and the Turks are of the 'Faithful'; but, on the 
other hand, they are just as likely to turn against the 
Sultan and help an invader. Ah! That's just a 
gentle reminder to let me know that the beggar is 
armed, and quite eager to kill me." 

The horseman galloping furiously towards our hero 
was now within some sixty yards of him: a picturesque 
figure, his turban and his flowing robes blowing out 
in the breeze he made, his Arab horse and the gaudy 
harness with which it was decorated making quite a 
remarkable appearance. It was just then, when Geoff 
was able to clearly distinguish the man's face, that 
the Arab's right arm was suddenly raised, a puff of 
white smoke swept away from above the head of his 
galloping horse, and something sang past Sultan's 
tail and kicked up a splash of sand beyond him. 
Then a dull, deep report reached Geoff's ears, and 
caused Sultan to bound sideways. Speaking to him, 
and pressing his knees into his flanks, Geoff then set 
him in motion, and instead of galloping away towards 
Daglish — who still watched the proceedings with 
bated breath — he set him flying off at a tangent, a 
movement which caused the Arab to swing his own 
horse round and come hurtling after him. Nor was 
he on the new course more than a few seconds when, 
pulling another pistol from his belt, he sent a second 
bullet in Geoff's direction. 

**A little too close to be pleasant," thought our 

(C8S4) 5 



66 On the Road to Bagdad 

hero as he heard the missile hum past his head, and 
saw the splash of sand it made beyond him. "I'll 
let Sultan out a little, and increase the distance, so 
that, if one of his bullets happens to strike us, no great 
damage will be inflicted. That's doing it! That's 
making him writhe with anger! He's grandly 
mounted, and I shouldn't wonder if he had the idea 
that there was nothing he couldn't come up with; but 
Sultan knows better. Don't we?" 

He leaned forward in his saddle and patted his 
horse's neck, while he glanced backward again at the 
pursuing Arab. That sudden spurt had taken him 
some hundred yards in front of his enemy, and even 
at that distance Geoff could see the chief brandishing 
his smoking weapon, and could hear as he shouted 
curses at him. Then slowly, almost imperceptibly, he 
circled from his course, till in a while he was head- 
ing almost direct for the point where Daglish was 
waiting. 

"Give him another two or three shots at the 
most," thought Geoff, casting many glances over his 
shoulder. " That Arab fellow may have two or three 
pistols with him — double-barrelled fellows — and if he's 
rich and lucky it may be that he's got a revolver. 
But I'll wager my hat that he ain't, or he'd have 
used it already." 

Ping! There came another shot, very wide of the 
mark, for the rage into which the Arab chief had 
worked himself, and the disappointment he was suffer- 
ing, had unsteadied him — that and his frantic gallop 
across the desert. By now, too, his horse was blowing 
hard, and was slackening its pace, a fact which Geoff 
noted clearly, and made allowance for by holding 



The First Encounter 67 

Sultan in and curbing his paces. It was perhaps a 
minute later when he swung Sultan round on his 
haunches and pulled him in abruptly, the sudden halt 
causing the Arab to decrease the distance between 
them rapidly and to come rushing towards them. 

^' Now shall Allah reward me!" the chief bellowed, 
his eyes gleaming, his teeth set, and his lips parted 
in a snarl of triumph and anger. 

Thrusting his empty pistol back into his belt, he 
dived for his curved scimitar, which was dangling 
beside him, and, getting his horse well in hand at the 
same moment, sped onwards without halting. It was 
then that Geoff revealed his own weapon, and, taking 
careful aim, pressed the trigger. An instant later 
the horse which the chief was riding reared up on 
its hind legs, whinnying loudly, and there for a 
moment it stood, pawing the air and snorting; then 
it collapsed of a sudden, as if the strength which had 
permitted it to fly so rapidly across the desert had 
been suddenly torn from it, and, crumpling up, fell 
back, bearing its rider with it. 

^*Drop your scimitar," shouted Geoff, covering the 
fallen chief as he staggered from his saddle and got 
to his feet. '* Now throw your pistols on one side. 
Good! You'll run in front of me as fast as you can, 
without looking to either side or behind you; if you 
fail in this, I have still another bullet to spare for 
you." 

Amazement was written on the face of the chief — 
amazement which was far greater for the moment 
than his wrath and his disappointment at being made 
a prisoner. For wrath does not last for long when a 
man has met with a fair opponent and has been fairly 



68 On the Road to Bagdad 

worsted. Moreover, whatever your Arab may be — ■ 
fierce, revengeful, treacherous, a false friend, if you 
will have it — he is yet a philosopher, a child of the 
desert, one who takes things as they come, and makes 
the best of them. 

"By Allah," he grunted, *'but this is a strange 
thing that has happened. A while ago and I thought 
that you — a white man, one of the race of unbelievers 
— were surely in my hands, were surely killed or cap- 
tive; but a while ago, had a man dared to tell me 
that I, Suliman, should fall before one of the invaders, 
and this at the very first encounter, I would have 
slain him; while, had one dared to say that this fine 
Arab I ride could meet his match anywhere in the 
desert, I would have had him stripped and beaten. 
But now, surely this is fate. Allah is great! and if 
this is his reward, then why should I be wroth with 
it? My master, I obey." 

Quite cheerfully he cast his empty weapons aside 
and threw his scimitar to a distance; then, with long 
active strides he set off in the direction that Geoff had 
indicated, casting not a single glance back at his com- 
rades, content as it were with his fate, and careless of 
what was before him — a true philosopher indeed, a 
true child of the desert. 

Perhaps ten minutes later they came up with 
Daglish, finding that young officer amazed, delighted 
beyond words, hugging himself with enjoyment. 

*^ My word!" he exclaimed as Geoff rode up beside 
him; *'of all the cheek, of all the dare-devils I ever 
saw. But what the devil do you mean by it?" 

He quite exploded as he recollected the fears which 
had assailed him; indeed, as he sat there, a witness 



The First Encounter 69 

of the moving scene which was taking place before 
him, he had had many and many a twinge of con- 
science, and had recollected that Keith was an officer 
whose loss would reflect on the head of any of his 
brothers responsible for it. "Why hadn't he told 
him to halt some hundred yards ahead? Why had 
he allowed him to go off on such a fool's errand? 
What the devil was the fellow doing? He'd be killed 
if he didn't look out, for look at all those splashes of 
sand about him, and listen to the rifles of those Turkish 

infantry, and — and Good Heavens! He was 

going to wait for that Arab chap! He was going 
to Bravo! Bravo, Keith! — took his fire with- 
out flinching — and now he is giving him a run for 
his money. There goes another shot, and can't have 
missed Keith by more than a trifle. Dash the fellow! 
He'll get killed yet, and here am I unable to help 
him." 

Imagine the shout of delight the enthusiastic Daglish 
indulged in when he saw that last manoeuvre of GeofPs, 
and watched as the Arab's horse reared and then 
crumpled up beneath him. Why, he had never been 
so excited in all his life, and now watched with staring 
eyes as the Arab clambered to his feet and then set off 
at a fast trot towards the eminence whereon he was 
standing. But that was a few minutes ago — minutes 
of huge relief to Daglish, minutes during which he 
could congratulate himself on a fortunate escape from 
something approaching a disaster, and upon a tale 
which would make excellent telling; and then, as a 
sharp order from Geoff brought the Arab to a stand- 
still, and that young officer halted like a culprit before 
him, the anger of this other officer — who was senior to 



70 On the Road to Bagdad 

Geoff — burst out as he recollected the qualms which 
had assailed him. 

**My word," he bellowed, **what the dickens do 
you mean by it? Isn't it enough to draw fire from 
those Turkish infantry, and to stand quite still, like 
an idiot, to make their shooting more perfect? Isn't 
it enough to make a fellow swear to see an officer 
chucking his life away out there in the desert? And, 
by James, Keith," he cried, as he stretched out a hand 
and gripped Geoff s, ''but it was fine! I wish to 
goodness I'd been in it; and to think you've got a 
captive at this early stage. Here, what's your name? 
Who are you? And where do you come from?" 

The Arab, tall, calm, almost austere, handsome and 
active, stood erect before the two young officers, not 
a shadow on his face, not a look of animosity about 
him ; he even smiled, and then addressed himself to 
our hero. 

'' Doubtless it is one of your chiefs, my master," he 
said, looking across at Daglish; ''doubtless, too, he is 
both angry and overjoyed at something. Maybe you 
are his brother, and in that case, seeing that Allah has 
spared you, and it is I who am a captive, why, I joy 
with him in his delight and pleasure. My master, if 
it is ill to be taken by an enemy, it is still an honour 
and a fine thing to be taken by one who is doubtless 
of value to his own people — a man respected and 
looked up to." 

"Can't make a word out," exclaimed Daglish, im- 
patiently casting anxious glances over his shoulder 
and then away towards the enemy. " But, as I said, 
Keith, you've got a captive, and if you handle him 
rightly you may make him jolly useful. Now, I'll 



The First Encounter 71 

stay here and keep my eye on those beggars, while 
you trot this fellow back towards our comrades." 

A sharp order from Geoff set the Arab in motion 
again, and presently, steering a course towards the 
two troops of horse which could now be seen advanc- 
ing towards them, they halted a few yards before them 
— nor is it to be wondered at that a torrent of questions 
was immediately poured out in Geoff's direction. 

*' What's this? Who's this fellow? — a fine-looking 
beggar, a chief I should say. How did you get hold 
of him? Where's he come from? And what's the 
latest about this enemy force that Harmer has re- 
ported?" 

As quickly as possible Geoff told his tale; merely 
mentioning that he and Daglish had advanced towards 
the enemy, and that by a fortunate chance they had 
managed to capture this chief, who had ventured out 
to meet them. 

^^I think, if you'll allow me, sir, I may be able to 
get some important information from him," he told the 
Officer in Command. ^' Of course he was very angry, 
in fact furious, at being captured, but, like a true 
follower of the Prophet, he is a born philosopher, and 
is already quite reconciled to his fate. I have told him 
already that no harm will come to him ; and if you will 
allow me to make promises of good treatment and of 
reward, I think he'll tell us as much as he knows of 
the Turks and their movements." 

'^ Then fire ahead! The horses have come along 
at a smartish pace and will do with a breather. I have 
already sent off strong advance- and flanking-parties, 
so that we are not likely to be surprised, particularly 
as Daglish is still out there in front watching the 



72 On the Road to Bagdad 

enemy and can signal back to us. Now, Keith, get 
on with the cross-examination. I think I may say 
that you may promise your captive a handsome 
present of money if he will give us every scrap of 
information." 

Saluting with precision, Geoff dropped out of his 
saddle, and, leaving Sultan to take care of himself, 
faced his captive. Then, handling him with that care 
and tact which residence amongst the Arabs had 
taught him, and in fact winning his confidence at 
once — for it was impossible for the Arab chief to have 
suspicion of this British officer's good intentions — 
Geoff very quickly gained from him information as to 
the positions taken up by the Turks and Arabs in the 
immediate neighbourhood, together with such news as 
the chief had of forces in other directions. 

*'But, my master, it is mere rumour — this latter 
information that I have given you," the chief told 
him. '* I and my men have been posted down beside 
the river, and know little of what is occurring else- 
where. Doubtless there are Turkish troops here and 
there, and it may be that in parts there are large forces 
of them, but between this and Basra they are few. 
That is true, as Allah hears me!" 

As a matter of precaution the chief was handed over 
to one of the sowars (Indian troopers) as soon as 
Geoff had repeated to his Commanding Officer what 
had been stated. 

*'Then I think we will make short work of those 
beggars in front of us," said the latter abruptly, as he 
swung himself into his saddle. *^A brush at this 
stage of the proceedings will liven the men up wonder- 
fully, and will raise the spirits of the Expeditionary 



The First Encounter 73 

Force from India — not that their spirits can be called 
exactly low, or the men in any way down-hearted." 

Setting off at a trot, one of the troops rode to the 
left of the eminence from which Geoff and his comrades 
had watched the enemy, while the other took a course 
to the right and galloped off into the desert. But an 
officer and a couple of sowars were left on the eminence 
itself, from which point of vantage they could keep 
a close watch on the Arab horsemen. 

It was perhaps half an hour later that the two 
troops, separated till then by quite a wide stretch of 
desert, and hidden entirely from one another and from 
the enemy by that long, low eminence, converged 
upon one another and rode out into the open. A 
careful advance near the bank of the river, where the 
palms hid them, and the fact that the attention of the 
Arab horsemen was fixed for the most part on the 
signallers and their officer left on the eminence, had 
allowed one troop to get within striking distance of 
the enemy. Then they suddenly debouched from the 
trees, and, trotting out into the desert, formed up for a 
charge; almost at the same moment a cloud of dust 
far away in the open showed them the position of the 
second troop, which, riding faster, had got almost 
beyond the position held by the Arabs. In fact, a 
rapid movement might enclose the enemy between 
the two troops, and in any case this menace from two 
points at once threw them into confusion ; shouts were 
heard from the Arabs, while at once loud reports 
burst from their ranks, all manner of weapons being 
discharged at the Indian horsemen. To these was 
added the sharp, clear-cut snap of modern rifles, with 
which the Turkish infantry were armed. Then a 



74 On the Road to Bagdad 

trumpet blared in the distance, and that cloud of 
dust suddenly grew bigger, grew bigger and wider, 
and stretched out till it covered quite a large area. 
The troop close down by the river, which had just 
emerged from the trees, cantered out now till six feet 
of space separated the horsemen. 

Then the pennons at the tips of the lances waved, 
a sharp order snapped down the ranks, and in a trice 
the lances were lowered. That trumpet blaring in the 
distance had set every horse in this other troop curvet- 
ing and prancing, and now, as a note came from 
their own trumpeter, the horses were off, the men 
leaning low down in their saddles, their eyes glued 
on the enemy, their knees gripping their horses, and 
their lances pointed well out before them. 

What a shout those Indian sowars gave! Their 
comrades coming from the opposite direction an- 
swered with a shrill yell of triumph, and then, like 
a flash, the two troops were launched against the 
enemy. 

Converging as they came, till there were perhaps 
only some four or five hundred yards between the 
flanks of each of the troops, the horsemen plunged 
into the midst of the Arabs. Here and there they had 
left a horse rolling on the sand behind them, and there 
was more than one animal without a rider as they got 
close to the enemy; but nothing stopped the Indians, 
neither the shouts nor the bullets of the Arabs. With 
a crash they were in at them, thrusting right and 
left, riding them down, riding over them, and then it 
was over. What was left of those Arab horsemen 
scattered and fled in every direction, leaving the 
Indian Horse conquerors. 



The First Encounter 75 

As for Geoff, his fingers trembled as he pulled 
Sultan in and dropped from his saddle. 

^^ My word," exclaimed Daglish, offering him his 
cigarette case with a hand which jerked and wobbled 
badly, '' but that was something! If that's war — the 
sort of war we're likely to have in Mesopotamia — then 
the more of it we have the merrier. Come here, 
Keith ! I want to know what yarn you've been pitch- 
ing to our Commander? You've been fibbing, eh? 
I asked him as we were trotting along through the 
palm-trees what report you had given. You said 
nothing about that flare-up with the Arab chief, about 
the bullets you were idiot enough to wait for, and 
about the way you captured him. My boy, there's a 
lively time coming! " 



CHAPTER V 

News of the Enemy 

When the youthful and enthusiastic, and, let us add, 
immaculately and smartly dressed Daglish of the 
Indian Horse declared with such gusto to Geoff 
Keith that there was a lively time coming, and that 
that young fellow was likely to hear more of the 
adventure that had befallen him so soon after his land- 
ing in Mesopotamia, he attained to only a portion of 
the truth, and hinted only in some small degree at 
what our hero was to put up with. Like a flash the 
tale of his meeting with the Arab chief went round 
the camp after the return of the Indian Horse, and 
not even that exhilarating and most dashing charge 
could swamp the details. 

*^ Wanted at Head-quarters, sir! Colonel gave 

me borders to find you at once. Pressing, sir! 
Ve-e-ery pressing, sir!" said a British *' Tommy ", as 
he discovered Geofif in the act of leaving the horse 
lines, where Sultan had been picketed. 

It was always a habit of Geoff s — as it is of every 
good horseman who possesses a fine animal, and is 
fond of it — to make it a custom and rule to see to 
the comforts of his mount before sitting down to eat 
and drink. Thus, as Geoff came striding away from 
beneath the palms where the Indian cavalry had 

76 



News of the Enemy 77 

picketed their horses, and where the officers' mounts 
were made fast to a long picketing-rope close beside 
them, he came face to face with this British ^ * Tommy "; 
in fact, the man barred his way to the ship still un- 
loading at the river bank, and arrested his further 
progress. A big, brawny chap, he was sweltering in 
the moist heat of Mesopotamia, with the perspiration 
pouring from his forehead and down both cheeks. 
His thin khaki-twill jacket was sticking to his manly 
chest in many parts, and showed a number of moist 
patches. From under his sun-helmet a pair of shrewd, 
sharp eyes peered at this young officer — the tale of 
whose adventures had reached the orderly's ears — 
while a fierce and somewhat grizzled moustache — for 
the man was an old soldier, who had seen many days' 
service in India — projected on either side of the chin- 
strap which secured the helmet. In the smartest pos- 
sible manner he came to attention, and, shouldering 
his rifle, saluted briskly. 

*' Horders, very speshul, sir," he said, his eyes 
twinkling; and then to himself, and almost aloud — 
for this gallant fellow had a way of addressing his 
remarks to no one in particular, and his thoughts to 
the open: *'Lor'! Bless me 'art! If he ain't no 
more'n a baby, just a mere shaver; and they tells me 
he speaks this 'ere lingo like a good 'un. Lingo, do 
they call it? Just a norrible mess o' words, that's 
what I says, and yer can't make not one of 'em under- 
stand. Why, bless me soul! I sees an old chap with 
coal-black eyes, an' a beard as white as snow, a-sittin' 
in a doorway o' one of the things round 'ere they calls 
'uts — 'uts, is they? My word! My uncle! — as some 
of these 'ere orficer men calls it — just 'oles I call 'em. 



78 On the Road to Bagdad 

*Uts! And there was that there man — more like a 
monkey he looked — and though I shouted at 'im, not 
a word could he understand, nor me the lingo he 
flung back at me. I should say " 

Geoff's rather short and abrupt *^Well?" brought 
the good fellow's ruminating to a sudden ending; he 
coughed loudly to clear his voice, and those sharp 
eyes of his again twinkled. 

*^ Bless my 'art! I was a-wanderin'," he told him- 
self; and then aloud: '' Horders, speshul, sir. Colonel 

, sir, said I was to find you at once, and you was 

to report at Head-quarters immediately. Shall I dis- 
miss, sir?" 

^'Please," Geoff told him, and stood watching the 
man and pondering — pondering not so much as to 
the reason for this order and the nature of the inter- 
view before him as to the reason which had produced 
what he was sure was a twinkling in the eyes of the 
man who had brought the message. 

"Confound the fellow!" he was saying. "I'm 
sure he had a little joke on of his own, and was almost 
laughing; and I've seen him before somewhere. Now 
where?" 

In his turn, he too was cut short abruptly, and 
enjoined to remember his orders, and not to allow 
himself to indulge in a species of "brown study". 
For if that gallant soldier had been duly and cor- 
rectly dismissed, he was still and always a soldier, a 
punctilious fellow, who throughout long years had 
never failed to carry out the orders of a superior, and 
who, now that he had conveyed such an order to an 
officer, considered it only his mere duty to see that 
that young officer acted on the order promptly. He 



News of the Enemy 79 

was standing near at hand, his rifle still at his 
shoulder, his head thrown back, those eyes of his 
watching- Geoff shrewdly. 

^'Horders, speshul, sir," he muttered in guttural 
tones, which just managed to reach our hero. '^ Beg 
pardon, sir " 

But Geoff had already come to his senses again, and 
went striding off to the Head-quarters hut, with the 
orderly following closely. There he found himself 
confronted just outside the hut, and beneath a tope 
of palms which threw its grateful shade above some 
chairs placed there for the Staff of the expedition, by 
one of the senior Staff Officers. 

**Ha, Keith!" he said genially enough. '*Sit 
down, my boy, and have a cigarette. Now tell me 
all about it. By the way, that has been a very pretty 
little affair, that rounding up of those Arab horsemen 
and the charge of the troops we sent out, a very 
gallant little bit of business, and I shouldn't wonder 
if it brought credit to the officer in command. But, 
as I am chiefly concerned with the Intelligence Ser- 
vice, I'll leave that alone for the moment and get you 
to tell me of the news you obtained from your prisoner. 
That reminds me. Young Daglish has been telling 
us a fine tale. Very well done, Keith! Very well 
done indeed! Though I doubt the wisdom of an 
officer on special service — as you happen to be just 
now — making himself the open, unabashed target for 
Turkish bullets. Take the enemy fire like a soldier 
when you have to, but don't seek it out; don't look 
for points or for places where you can expose yourself. 
In other words, don't be reckless, or, to quote our 
friend Daglish again, don't ' behave like a careless 



8o On the Road to Bagdad 

idiot!' Now then, having said my say, let us get on 
with our particular business." 

Very quickly Geoff gave him all the information he 
had been able to extract from the captured chief, and 
then, at a suggestion from the officer, the Arab was 
sent for, and presently appeared with an escort of 
sowars about him. 

^* If I may say so, sir," said Geoff, *' I think we 
shall do far better by showing our trust in this 
prisoner and dismissing his escort. I do not assert 
that an Arab is to be trusted. As a general rule, 
speaking of those in Mesopotamia, he is certainly not; 
he will join the cause of the highest bidder, or he will 
leave any sinking ship if only he can discover the 
danger in which he is standing soon enough. But 
by making this man realize that we are not a sinking 
ship, and that his interests are best served by serving 
us, we shall be able to get from him not only informa- 
tion which he already has, but might even employ 
him to obtain further facts of importance. For that 
a liberal reward, to be paid some months hence, 
should be promised." 

For a little while the Staff Officer regarded the 
chief sternly, and yet with interest. No Englishman 
could look at such man and fail to find in him much 
to attract attention. For, as we have said before, this 
Arab chief was an exceedingly fine specimen of Arab 
humanity. Tall and straight and austere-looking in 
his native costume, his features were refined and 
handsome. There was nothing of the negroid type 
about him; and indeed this man, dressed in European 
costume, might have made his appearance in the 
most exclusive parts of London, and one could guess 



• <:^«i>.fr.7 ■•\'-'. 



'-"^m 



> 




WHAT WAS LEFT OF THOSE ARAB HORSEMEN SCATTKRKl) AM> 
FLED " 



News of the Enemy 8i 

that his features, his delicately shaped hands, his 
well-kept nails, his manners, indeed, would have 
rendered him by no means inferior to his fellows. 
The chief returned the officer's frank gaze with one 
just as frank, with one distinctly haughty, with a 
glance which told of courage, and pride, and also 
determination. 

"Dismiss the escort, "commanded the officer sharply, 
addressing the Indian officer in charge of them; '' let 
them rest in the shade at the back of the Head-quarters 
hut. Now, Chief," he said, smiling at the captive, "sit 
down. Keith, ask him to make himself comfortable." 

"The officer here wishes you to feel that you are 
a friend and not a captive," said Geoff at once, taking 
upon himself the liberty of somewhat enlarging upon 
his senior's pronouncement. *' He invites you to sit 
down with us, and, as a chief of honour, he knows 
that by doing so you give your word that you will 
not attempt to escape, and that what shall be spoken 
between us will be the truth, and the truth only." 

A beaming smile broke over the face of the chief 
instantly, and he nodded in friendly fashion to both 
officers; then, pulling a chair nearer, he sat down 
with an easy grace which proved beyond fear of 
refutation that if indeed he were a child of the desert, 
yet he had some knowledge of Western customs, 
and unlike his fellows was accustomed to a chair, 
and appreciated the comfort to be obtained by the use 
of it. 

" My master," he told Geoff, "doubtless His High- 
ness who sits there with us is a great chief in your 
country, and is one whose words should be honour- 
ably listened to. If he says that he desires Suliman 

(0 834) 6 



82 On the Road to Bagdad 

as a friend rather than as a captive, and that at a time 
when he discovers this same Suliman a mere harmless 
and helpless prisoner, then, indeed, is he a man of 
great honour and liberality. And what should I say? 
I, who am a helpless, harmless captive, who am bid 
to sit as friend before him, and who thereby assents to 
join your forces. My master, from this day forward 
I am your man, sworn to your service, sworn to do 
my utmost for the British. If I depart from this say- 
ing, if it should happen that in later days I break my 
oath, then, indeed, may I be proclaimed to be a faith- 
less scoundrel, one deserving of instant execution. 
My master, as a friend I sit before you, and I thank 
you for this great concession." 

For more than an hour the three sat there in the 
shadow of the palms, Geoff acting as interpreter; and 
slowly, and little by little, as the Intelligence Officer 
asked questions which would never have occurred to 
Geoff, information of considerable value was extracted 
from the chief. Indeed, the latter was undoubtedly 
greatly delighted at the treatment afforded him — for 
to be kept a close captive had seemed to him in- 
evitable. And partly by the judicious offer of a 
handsome reward — a small portion of which was to 
be paid within a month's time, so soon as he had 
produced results, and the remainder when the war 
was finished — together with the promise of certain 
allowances whilst he was with the British Expedi- 
tionary Force in Mesopotamia, the chief was led to 
give a most willing assent to aid his captors further. 

*' More than that, my master," he said eagerly 
enough, addressing Geoff while he looked across at 
the Staff Officer, *'I can make even greater pro- 



News of the Enemy 83 

mises; for have you not honoured me much by thus 
making a friend of me rather than a captive? Listen, 
then! And as Allah hears us, treat this not as a 
promise, but as a plan to be carried out without doubt 
and of a certainty. You have treated me handsomely, 
and have made promises which will give me wealth if 
I but live to earn it. See, these men about me, these 
Indian horsemen, these British soldiers, these native 
troops whom you have brought across the water to 
fight the Turk and the Sultan and those white men — 
those unbelievers — who have joined your enemy ! You 
pay those soldiers of yours, doubtless, my master; 
your British king has gold wherewith to fill their 
pockets?" 

^'Certainly, Chief," Geoff told him promptly. 
*'Each man draws his regular pay and allowances. 
Every one of the soldiers you see here is a free man — 
free to join the army or not, just as he likes. But, 
once he has joined, he is paid just as a man who may 
work as a servant in one of your camps is paid, for the 
British king forces service upon no man." 

"Then listen further, my master. There are in my 
tribe perhaps a thousand men, all well found with 
horses, all with great knowledge of this country, and 
not one of whom would fail to fight if the opportunity 
came to him. Give them money, pay them the same 
amount that you pay these Indian soldiers, and 
find them in certain necessaries and in ammunition. 
Promise this, and trust your slave still further. For 
then he will ride out to them, and if they be not 
willing to return with him and join forces with these 
soldiers, he himself will return — whether they wish it 
or not — and will render himself up again to you. My 



84 On the Road to Bagdad 

master, I am a man of honour, and this thing I will 
do, as Allah hears me." 

The suggestion made by the captured chief was 
one which, naturally enough, needed much consider- 
ation, and, also, the consent of higher authority; yet, 
so excellent did the plan seem, and so clearly was 
Geoff able to put it before the Intelligence Officer, that 
by the following morning it was adopted, and, a good 
horse having been handed to the chief, and weapons 
also, he was allowed to ride out of the camp in search 
of his followers. 

^* Of course we may, or we may not, see him back," 
said the Staff Officer somewhat sceptically. ''You 
tell me, Keith, that Arabs are not to be trusted, and 
that is a tale I have heard often enough before. Yet 
I have little doubt that many of them are just as trust- 
worthy as people in our country." 

"Just!" Geoff agreed with him promptly, if not 
warmly, for during his short residence in Mesopo- 
tamia, when he had been with Major Joe Douglas, he 
had met with, and lived with, more than one tribe of 
Arabs, with whom he had become more than usually 
friendly. Moreover, he had known them to be abso- 
lutely trustworthy; and though, during this coming 
conflict, some might already have sided with the 
Turks — who were their nominal rulers — and though, 
as the campaign went on, it might happen that they 
would leave that service and join the British — for such 
is a habit of nomadic Arab tribes — yet that did not 
prove them to be utterly devoid of trust or of honour. 

*' If I know a man at all, sir," he said respectfully, 
" I know this chief, whom I was instrumental in cap- 
turing. He has given us his word of honour, and he 



News of the Enemy 85 

has called upon Allah to witness the words which he 
has spoken. That will compel him to carry out his 
promises whether he wills it or not; and should it 
happen that his followers arrest him, and do their 
utmost to prevent his return, yet I feel sure that he 
will make every effort to come back to us." 

As a matter of fact, some three days later, when the 
embarkation of the British Expeditionary Force was 
completed, and the troops had settled down in their 
camps beside the river, the outposts — placed well 
beyond the encampment — reported a large column of 
horsemen approaching. The information was brought 
to Head-quarters, and within five minutes of its ar- 
rival that same Intelligence Officer had sent a hurried 
message to our hero. 

**Get on your horse at once, Keith," he told him, 
*'and come along with me. This force approaching 
may be our friend the chief bringing in his followers 
or it may be an enemy force come to try conclusions 
with us. If I happened to be an officer in the Indian 
Horse I rather think I should hope for the latter, for 
those boys are dying for more fighting. As it is, I 
trust that it will be the chief, and that he'll bring with 
him a lot of useful fellows. Horsemen used to the 
country and to the tricks of the Turks will be a valu- 
able acquisition, and we shall be able to make the 
most of them." 

Quickly mounting the fretful Sultan, Geoff was ready 
within a few minutes, and, together with the Intelli- 
gence Officer, made rapid progress to the outposts. 
Then, fixing his glasses to his eyes, he carefully scru- 
tinized the force approaching across the desert. A 
tall figure in flowing robes, riding at their head, was 



86 On the Road to Bagdad 

without doubt the chief who had given them his pro- 
mise, and, having- reported this fact to the Intelligence 
Officer, the two of them rode out to meet the cavalcade 
approaching. Then they led them back into the 
camp, and within an hour the Arabs had settled down 
as if they had never been anything else but a portion 
of the British Expeditionary Force destined to advance 
so far up the River Tigris. 

Two days later the camp broke up, and, with a 
naval flotilla steaming beside them up the river, they 
marched on Basra, which town they occupied, after 
meeting with only small resistance. They were now 
approaching the confluence of the Rivers Tigris and 
Euphrates, and were, indeed, within striking distance 
of that portion of the desert which, in days long gone 
by, was known as the Garden of Eden, where the 
toil of the inhabitants then living in those parts had 
converted what may have been a desert in their earlier 
days into a smiling garden the fame of which has 
descended through the ages. Yet now it was a desert, 
a sandy, gravelly stretch of dried-up, waterless, and 
inhospitable desert, peopled but sparsely, and for the 
most part only along the actual banks of the river, 
where the moisture, finding its way into the soil on 
either side, kept it fertile, and where grew a thick belt 
of palms, descending past Basra to the open sea. 
There were marshes, too, for the River Euphrates in 
particular, which traverses a flat country, has changed 
its course through the ages on numerous occasions. 
Some particular course may remain open for a con- 
siderable period, and have the appearance of being 
the main channel, yet always there are overflows, and 
often enough such a main channel is silted up with 



News of the Enemy 87 

the dirt and debris coming from higher parts of the 
desert; then the water, bursting over the low banks, 
and particularly the southern bank, has gouged some 
other channel for itself, or has widened out into broad 
stretches of marsh — perhaps only two feet in depth — 
leaving no semblance of the river channel. 

^'It's there, amongst the marshes, that the Turks 
lie hidden," the chief told Geoff that evening. '*Of 
their numbers and of their exact positions I know 
nothing, yet the rumour has reached me that they 
are there, and that soon they will attempt to come in 
behind the British and attack them. It were well, 
my master, if some of those ships that I see floating 
upon the water, and in particular some of the smaller 
ones, were sent into the marshes. There are channels 
deep enough to take them, and if careful search were 
made it may be that the Turkish enemy would be 
discovered." 

Geoff was not such a young soldier that he could 
not at once perceive the importance of the information 
just conveyed to him. With the knowledge he already 
had of Mesopotamia, he had been able to inform his 
friend on the Staff that, above the town of Basra, wide 
stretches of marsh would be discovered, which at 
certain seasons of the year were greatly extended by 
the heavy rains which fell in that part of the world. 
But if residence in Mesopotamia had given him some 
idea of the course of the rivers, of the towns and 
villages dotted here and there, and of the numerous 
peoples who inhabited that region, he could not, natu- 
rally enough, be expected to know where the Turks 
had disposed their forces on the outbreak of this 
gigantic war. Some had undoubtedly been posted 



88 On the Road to Bagdad 

towards the mouth of the Shatt-el-Arab, for had not 
the Indian horse already had a lively brush with them? 
But where were the others? Higher up the river, pre- 
paring their defences and waiting for the onward 
march of the British forces, or sneaking in those 
marshes to the west of them, which spread themselves 
along the broken and irregular course of the River 
Euphrates, from a point perhaps fifty miles away to the 
spot where the river joined with the main channel of 
the Tigris? And if they were there, hidden in the 
swamps, perhaps camping on some piece of ground 
elevated sufficiently to give them a dry footing, then 
indeed they would be a menace to the safety of the 
forces invading the country. They might march down 
along the edge of the swampy ground, or if provided 
with native boats, known as bellums, might steal over 
the shallow waters and cut off the retreat of Geoff and 
his comrades. 

''Chief," he said suddenly, "you know this marsh 
land, perhaps, and you would help us to discover 
these enemies?" 

" My master, an Arab is a man of the desert, a 
man who is happiest when far away in the open, or 
when mounted upon his horse, with leagues of sandy 
soil before him. We are not given to venturing 
upon the water, and thus it follows that I am ignorant 
of these marshes, and could be of little service. But 
listen, my master! There is one within this town of 
Basra who could assist you. A man known to me — 
a native of these parts, of uncertain nationality. He 
is but a poor fisherman; and if His Highness, whom 
I have met, cares to arrest him, he has then but to com- 
mand and the man will carry out his bidding." 



News of the Enemy 89 

*^And suppose — for I must tell you, Chief, that we 
of Great Britain do not force our orders upon helpless 
and poor people — supposing a reward is offered to this 
man. What then?" asked Geoff. 

'* Then, indeed, you may count upon his assistance, 
his ready assistance," said the chief, ''and for all I 
know he might be willing enough to carry out the 
work because of his hatred of the Turks. Yes, my 
master, they are hated in this part of the world. 
Though they molest the Arabs but little, and indeed 
fear us greatly, for we are swift to move from spot to 
spot, and can strike a blow and be gone in an instant, 
yet to those who live their lives on the bank of the 
river, where the Turks can reach them easily because 
of their boats, to these they are often harsh and cruel, 
taxing them heavily, and treating them as slaves, or 
little better." 

Geoff gave himself a few moments in which to 
deliberate, and then, asking the chief to accompany 
him to Head-quarters, he sent in a message to the 
Intelligence Officer who has already been introduced 
to our readers. To him he promptly gave full infor- 
mation of the marshes, and of the rumoured Turkish 
forces lying hidden in them. It was apparent at once 
that this Staff Officer considered the news of the utmost 
importance; for, bidding Geoff stay outside the house 
taken over by the General, he disappeared inside, and 
remained there for quite a considerable period. When 
he came out again, it was clear from the expression on 
his face that he had come to some decision. 

''Those Turks must be found, and routed," he told 
Geoff. "And of course we shall be glad to take 
advantaofe of the services of the native whom the chief 



90 On the Road to Bagdad 

has mentioned to you. That means that you must go 
along too, Keith, for otherwise there will be the lan- 
guage difficulty. Orders will be given to the naval 
contingent. There are some motor launches with 
them, and I imagine that one of them should be able 
to make its way through the marshes. In fact, the 
expedition will have to be a naval one almost entirely, 
with you and this native guide accompanying." 

Geoff coughed discreetly to attract the Staff Officer's 
attention, for of a sudden a brilliant thought had struck 
him. He was thinking of his chum Philip, who had 
almost '^ lived in his pocket" these last few days, and 
who eagerly waited a summons to accompany our 
hero. 

*' You are the luckiest beggar I ever came across!" 
he had told Geoff when he had heartily congratulated 
him upon his capture of the Arab chief. '' Any other 
fellow would have been shot down by those Turkish 
bullets, which Daglish says you were idiot enough to 
stand up and face — but I'll be honest, though, and 
add that Daglish, though he said at first you were an 
idiot, said afterwards that he admired your pluck, and 
wondered whether he'd have been as cool if he'd 
been in your place. But we're not talking about 
Daglish, we're talking about you and myself, and 
don't forget that I come into the discussion. What 
I want to impress upon you is the decided need you 
have of assistance. You can't go off on jaunts like 
that without having another fellow to look after you. 
Supposing one of those Turkish bullets had hit you 
after all, what then?" 

He stood in front of Geoff and watched him expec- 
tantly. 



News of the Enemy 91 

'^ What then!" repeated Geoff, smiling at the im- 
pulsiveness of his chum. 

'* What then!" cried Philip indignantly. **Why! 
Well, supposing I'd been there I could have carried 
you off and could have stood my ground, and captured 
that chief when he got out to us. But there you are, 
the thing's over now, and what you've got to do is to 
look out for trouble in the future. Geoff, you want 
a fellow alongside of you, a friend, one you can confide 
in, one ready to assist you at any moment. I'm that 
friend ; and don't you forget it, my boy, or else there'll 
be ructions." 

Geoff did not forget it, for nothing in the world 
would have pleased him better than to have his old 
friend along with him. It was nice, and exciting, 
indeed, to find himself in the company of other officers 
— such as Daglish and those of the Indian troops who 
had attacked the Arab horsemen — but, after all, a 
friend is a friend all the world over; and if Philip 
had been there, he told himself. Why! He would 
certainly have enjoyed the whole adventure more 
thoroughly. And here was a new adventure proposed 
by this Staff Officer. He, Geoff, was to go off with 
some of the naval contingent, and was to penetrate into 
that huge stretch of marshland lying along the course 
of the Euphrates. Anything might happen! Turks 
were rumoured to be there, and if they were it was 
more than likely that there would be a sort of guerrilla 
fighting. What chances the thing presented! And 
how jolly to have Philip along with him. He coughed 
again discreetly, yet in such a way that the Staff 
Officer glanced at him swiftly and inquisitively. 

'' Eh?" he asl^d, smiling. '' You " 



92 On the Road to Bagdad 

**I rather thought, sir," said Geoff diffidently, 
**that if I could have another officer — an infantry 
officer, I mean, sir — along with me, it might be some 
assistance. I " 

*' In fact," laughed the Staff Officer, '' you have one 
particular friend, and would be glad to have him 
ordered to join you with this expedition. Well, I 
don't know that there is any particular objection," he 
continued, to Geoff's huge relief and enjoyment. *' A 
smart young officer might be of great assistance, and 
in any case he'd be very good company. What's the 
name, Keith?" 

Geoff gave it with suspicious promptness, and the 
Staff Officer jotted it down in his notebook. 

'' Then you'd better both of you get ready," he told 
Geoff. *' It'll take the navy a little time to make their 
preparations, but they are not the boys to sit still and 
think too long, particularly when an expedition is on 
foot which promises excitement. I imagine they will 
work most of the night, and by to-morrow morning 
early they will be ready to steam off into the marshes. 
In the meanwhile you had better hunt up this native 
that the chief has mentioned, and interview him. 
Offer him a reasonable reward, to be paid after the 
successful termination of the business." 

By nightfall Geoff had fully carried out the instruc- 
tions given him, and, having visited the naval con- 
tingent, learned that a small motor-launch would be 
fully armed and provisioned, and ready to set off at 
the first streak of dawn on the following morning. 
Also, he had interviewed his chum Philip, whose 
delight and enthusiasm were almost overwhelming. 
They were up shortly after two o'clock in the morning, 



News of the Enemy 93 

and, having eaten a hearty breakfast, and armed them- 
selves with rifles and revolvers, they stole down to the 
landing-place, where the motor-boat was to wait them. 

''Aboard there!" Geoff hailed, for it was still quite 
dark, and it was impossible to make out even the 
outline of the boat. 

''Ahoy!" a voice came back. "Who's that?" 

"Two officers waiting to come aboard. Have you 
got that native there yet?" asked Geoff, as an oar 
splashed in the water and the boat was rowed in close 
to the bank of the river. 

"Aboard this hour or more," came the hearty 
answer. "Easy does it, now, or you'll be capsizing 
us! There we are, two officers aboard, and all 
ready!" 

" Push her off, Cox; let her go!" 

There was a sound of machinery and the clack of 
valves as the engine was set going; then the tiny 
motor-boat trembled as the propeller rotated. A 
moment later she was stealing out across the river, still 
hidden in the darkness, and, having traversed a long 
stretch of water, approached the opposite bank, where 
the marshes empty themselves into the river. The 
daylight was just coming, and for a while they lay to, 
so that the native guide could be sure of their position. 
Then a sharp order was given, the propeller thrashed 
the water again, and in a little while they were thread- 
ing their way amidst a mass of reeds and islands of 
oozing mud, which formed the eastern boundary of 
the marshes. In less than five minutes they were 
entirely lost to view, and were launched on an expedi- 
tion which was to prove as interesting as it was ex- 
citing. 



CHAPTER VI 

An Exploring-party 

*'And now, supposing we lay to a little and think 
about some breakfast? Not a bad idea that, eh?" 
exclaimed a cheery individual, upon whose brawny 
figure Geoff's eyes had many a time been fixed during 
the half-hour or more which had elapsed since the 
motor-boat had stolen so silently and secretly from the 
main channel of the Shatt-el-Arab into the wastes 
bordering the River Euphrates, and who seemed to be 
in command of the expedition. 

He was a moderately tall, broad-shouldered, heavily- 
built, red-faced, and exceedingly — not to say delight- 
fully — healthy-looking specimen of sailor humanity. 
His thin khaki-twill garments hung loosely about him 
— for if young subalterns, like Philip and Geoff, must 
needs have their clothes for active service cut almost 
as smartly as for residence in London, there were 
others, older than they — wiser, let us dare to venture 
— who, with much experience behind them, preferred 
comfort to elegance, and ease to any degree of smart- 
ness. Underneath the helmet which clothed the head 
of this naval officer was a broad and very rubicund 
face — as we have already mentioned — a strong, open, 
and peculiarly prepossessing figure-head, which was 
seamed and lined, partly by the action of the sun, but 
more by the almost constant smiles of the owner. 

94 



An Exploring-party 95 

** Just shut down that throttle, Marsden," he called 
cheerily to the man operating the engine; and then to 
one of the sailors right for'ard: "You can let go that 
anchor, Clark. Now, boys, we'll pipe down to a meal 
and a smoke of tobacco, for there's no violent hurry. 
Glad to meet you two young officers. I'm Commander 

Houston, lately of H. M.S. , theship the Admiralty 

authorities in Whitehall insisted on keeping in the 
Persian Gulf — a nasty sort of a place that Persian 
Gulf, I can tell you. Aboard-ship life in those parts 
is worse than any ' hole in Calcutta ', and when the 
hot weather comes, phew! it's a wonder that a white 
man survives, and to me it's a miracle that I remain 
so robust and stout, when you'd expect me to get as 
thin as a lath, and waste away rapidly." 

Waste away indeed! No one who cared to look at 
the jovial Commander Houston would ever imagine 
that to be possible, to have been probable even at any 
stage in his career. For the man was heavily built, 
as we have said, his bones well covered with muscle, 
and the latter clad with an amount of fat which made 
his figure rather rounder than was desirable. Geoff 
smiled back at him, while Philip unbent and let him- 
self go in a moment. They couldn't help themselves, 
for the Commander made them feel at ease almost im- 
mediately. His smiling crew, the oil-stained indivi- 
dual who worked his engine, the Cox who sat right 
aft with the tiller, every one of them smiled, as if 
happy to be in his company. 

"Looks jolly promising," Philip told his chum 
sotto voce, "It never occurred to me before that in 
joining this expedition we might have found ourselves 
under a high and mighty sort of fellow, who would 



96 On the Road to Bagdad 

order us about like dirt, just because we're junior 
subalterns. Ahem! Breakfast? Rather!" 

"And to think that we had a meal just before we 
left our side of the river," said Geoff; ''but I'm 
hungry enough, and ready for anything." 

By now the Cox had gone for'ard, where the tall, 
raw-boned, grey-bearded native — whom Geoff had in- 
terviewed on the previous day, and who was said to 
have an intimate knowledge of the marshes — had now 
joined them. The Commander himself came aft from 
the central cabin, in which he had been stationed, and 
sat himself down near the two young infantry officers, 
and, opening a locker, pulled out a basket of pro- 
visions. 

'*The man who wants to get on in the world, and 
carry out a job successfully, must look after his health 
whatever happens," he smiled at them. ''So, having 
started this expedition successfully, and slipped into 
the marshes with, I feel sure, no one being the wiser, 
we can look after the inner man before proceeding 
farther. Which one of you young officers happens 
to be known as Geoffrey Keith?" 

"Guilty, sir!" Geoff' told him, with a laugh. "I 
am the individual." 

"Oh!" 

At once our hero felt himself being surveyed with 
that same sort of polite, yet searching scrutiny which 
the General and his Staff Officers had directed upon 
him. Perhaps it is a habit of the Services; more 
likely it is a habit engendered in men placed in a 
position of command, who wish, in the space of a few 
seconds — seeing that often enough there is no longer 
for the purpose — to sum up those who are to serve 



An Exploring-party 97 

with them, those upon whom they may have to call 
for action, and to assure themselves at the very com- 
mencement that they are to be fully relied upon. 

"Oh!" he said at last, as he dived into his basket 
and produced a Thermos bottle, some cups, and a 
paper parcel. "Young enough, at any rate, Keith, 
but they tell me not too young to stand fire. Ah ! 
Ah! Tales do spread, don't they? Never saw such 
people as the army for gossiping! I give you my 
word that, long before this expedition was mooted, I 
knew all about a fellow with a thundering fine Arab 
who had gone out and captured an Arab chief. That's 
you, eh, Keith?" 

It was hopeless for Geoff to attempt to hide his 
modesty, for the very flush which rose to his cheeks 
seemed to raise the mirth of this naval officer. He 
glanced sideways at Geoff as he chuckled loudly, and 
then handed him a ponderous sandwich and a cup of 
steaming coffee. 

"And the other young officer?" he asked between 
his own mouthfuls. 

"Philip Denman, at your service," laughed the 
owner of that name, entering into the fun of the 
moment. "You don't happen to have heard any 
sort of report about that officer, do you, sir? That 
is to say, anything against his character, I hope." 

"Well, not at present," the Commander laughed 
back at him, enjoying the joke immensely. " Nothing 
at present. But you never know! For before we are 
out of this business there may be lots of opportunities 
for reports, good and bad and indifferent. But just 
listen to this: I feel like a schoolboy, for I'm off on 
a jaunt, after being tied up aboard ship for two months 

(C834) 7 



98 On the Road to Bagdad 

and more. This expedition ought to be like a holiday; 
and, of course, if we happen to run into the Turks and 
have a little affair of our own, why, who knows? a 
poor chap who has been condemned for more than 
a year past to steam up and down the Persian Gulf 
may be promoted to something better. Now, Keith, 
another sandwich. No? Well, well, save it up till 
later. A pipe then? Oh, you don't smoke pipes! 
Then turn on your own particular brand of cigarettes 
while I light my pipe. And now let's have a sort 
of council of war. I ought to explain that I know 
precious little about this business. I have been told 
that these marshes extend for perhaps fifty miles, and 
even more, due west from the Shatt-el-Arab, and 
running a little north as they go westward; in fact, 
following and embracing the course of the River 
Euphrates. Turks are said to be hiding somewhere 
about in the marshes, and our job is to find 'em and 
rout 'em out if we can, and, if not, to bring back 
information." 

He looked at Geoff inquisitively, and the latter 
nodded with energy. 

"Quite so, sir!" he said. "We have brought a 
native along with us who knows the marshes." 

"And a precious-looking old scoundrel he is too," 
laughed the Commander, turning his eyes towards 
the bows of the boat, where the native sat on his 
haunches amongst the sailors, consuming their rations 
with such energy that there was little doubt that they 
met entirely with his approval. " A precious-looking 
old scoundrel too," the Commander repeated; "but 
no doubt under that dusky skin of his there lies hidden 
something admirable. It seems to me, Keith, that the 



An Exploring-party 99 

first thing for us to do, now that we have looked to 
the inner man, and have commenced to soothe our 
nerves with tobacco, is to cross-examine that old 
scarecrow, and find out something of what he knows 
about the marshes. I understand that that is your 
particular job, seeing that you are something of a 
linguist." 

Geoff flushed. It made him quite nervous when 
people referred to his linguistic accomplishments, and 
more particularly so when the one who spoke was 
a merry naval officer who smiled quizzically at him 
as he asked his question. But a moment later Com- 
mander Houston was as serious as he could be, 
and, stretching out a friendly hand, gripped Geoff's 
shoulder. 

''Only my fun!" he said. ''Look here, Keith, 
there^s nothing for you to be ashamed of in the fact 
that you can talk these Eastern languages. My word! 
I wish I could ! For it would be worth quite a hand- 
some little addition to my daily pay — and that to a 
Commander in the Royal Navy is something always 
worth considering. Besides, think of the added in- 
terest it gives you in a campaign such as this is! 
How free it makes you! And what possibility it 
presents of splendid adventure! Now I wouldn't 
mind guessing that if you were surrounded by the 
enemy, and were, as it were, blockaded in one of 
their towns, you would be quite capable of turning 
out as a Turk, provided you could get the disguise, 
and of giving them the slip. How's that, eh?" 

Geoff admitted the possibility with a cheery laugh, 
for no one could be serious when Commander Houston 
was addressing him. 



loo On the Road to Bagdad 

*^ I've done it already, sir," he told him, with a grin. 
"You see, Major Douglas — who's an Indian 'politi- 
cal ', and who happens to be my guardian — brought 
me to Mesopotamia some while ago, and we went 
right into the heart of the country. The Major knows 
all sorts of Arabs and other people, and it's part of 
his job — or was, at any rate, in peace times — to find 
out everything that was going on; what the Turks 
were doing, what the Arabs thought of them, and how 
the various nationalities lived." 

' ' Half a minute ! " smiled the Commander. ' ' What 
about the Germans?" 

"Germans! Of course," admitted Geoff, "they 
were to be met with in all sorts of odd corners, and 
conducting every sort of extraordinary business. My 
suspicion is that their businesses, on many occasions, 
were absolutely fictitious; in fact, they had no real 
business in many cases, and were simply agents of 
the German Government sent into the country to 
worm out the secrets of the Turks, and more particu- 
larly to find out precisely what opportunities there 
were for trade, and what portion of it the British 
had secured." 

"Hear! Hear!" echoed the Commander. "You 
can quite understand that being ordered to the Persian 
Gulf, and having to steam up and down that ex- 
tremely uninteresting, not to say unhealthy part, left 
a man plenty of time for ruminating, for discussing 
matters in general, and for learning in particular 
something of what was happening in this portion of 
Turkey and in Persia. A fellow couldn't steam up 
to Basra — as we did now and again in one of our 
pinnaces — without knocking up against Germans— 



An Exploring-party loi 

fat Germans, thin Germans, ugly Germans (lots of 
ugly ones, my boy) — Germans who were conducting 
some sort of trade, and who appeared at first sight 
to be the most harmless and almost the most help- 
less people under the sun. But that's your wily 
German all over! 

*'I remember one particular individual — a big, fat, 
jovial fellow — Von something or other, I've forgotten 
his name, except that it was a regular 'jaw-cracker'. 
Von Schmidt let's call him for the moment. A nicer 
chap to meet you couldn't wish for, that is, just at the 
beginning. I remember that he was trying to get to- 
gether a business in dates. His sole object in life 
seemed to be that of bribing Arabs to bring in camel- 
loads of dates, and to deposit them in an old hut which 
he had hired just on the outskirts of Basra; and now 
and again he sent off a barge full of these same dates, 
consigning them to some place in Europe. But it was 
not his real business, my boy! And I found that out 
quite by accident. For, happening to get stranded one 
evening when darkness had fallen, and in the midst 
of a violent rain-storm, I claimed shelter from him— 
for there was a light in the window of his house. It 
was blowing big guns just then, and I suppose he 
didn't hear the rap I gave on the door. As a matter 
of fact, he was in his bedroom, which was at the back 
of the building. It wasn't the sort of time when one 
waits for a summons, for the rain was pouring down 
in torrents, as I told you, so I just pushed the door 
open and went into the main room of the building, 
and, shutting the door, shouted for him. Even then 
he didn't hear, so that I had time to take a good look 
round, and couldn't help seeing that the table in the 



I02 On the Road to Bagdad 

centre of the room was piled with papers, and that maps 
— maps of Mesopotamia, maps of the Persian Gulf — 
diagrams showing the 'pipe-line', which brings our 
oil from Persia, and lists of Arab tribes, against which 
was placed a note in German, which showed that they 
were to be considered friendly, were spread out over 
the remaining portion of the table. You see," he 
added, with a chuckle, *' I know a little German. Not 
much, you know, but just sufficient to read it. I can't 
tell you now all about those papers, and of course it 
isn't quite the thing for a man to enter the house of 
an acquaintance and read his private correspondence. 
It isn't ' cricket', of course, you know, and no Britisher 
does it; but accidents will happen, and that night it 
so fell out that my eyes were unwittingly opened : the 
fat, pleasant, jovial Von what's-his-name was un- 
doubtedly a German Government agent." 

Geoff nodded briskly, for he and Major Douglas 
had had many an experience with German agents in 
Mesopotamia. 

" I don't profess to know all about it, sir," he told 
the Commander, "but the Major was very chary of 
the Germans he met, and often told me that Germany 
undoubtedly had her eyes on Asiatic Turkey, and was 
preparing the ground for some future occasion. But 
you were saying that I could dress up as a Turk and 
move about amongst them. I've done it, sir! You 
must understand that the Germans in Mesopotamia 
were very jealous of the Major, they not only sus- 
pected him to be a British agent, but knew what his 
mission was in the country, and for that reason set 
a watch on him. They bribed men to follow us, and 
put the Turks on our tracks, so that had we not been 



An Exploring-party 103 

very quick and very wide awake we should have 
learned nothing — that is to say, the Major would have 
learned nothing — for the British Government. We 
had to give the Germans and the Turks the slip, and 
we did it, time and again, by adopting a disguise and 
moving off amongst the people. But about this native, 
sir; you suggested that he should be cross-examined." 

** That's it!" cried the Commander, filling his pipe 
again. '^Call the old boy up! Ton my word, now 
that one looks at him, he's quite a handsome scoun- 
drel!'* 

By then the men for'ard, and the native whom they 
had been entertaining, had finished their meal, and, 
like their officer, were enjoying a quiet smoke before 
pushing onward. Sailor -like, too, they were en- 
deavouring to their utmost to make themselves plea- 
sant to their passenger. It was quite amusing to 
watch a big, burly sailor discoursing eloquently to 
the native and listening intently; Geoff and Philip 
and their Commanding Officer overheard some of this 
conversation. 

** Look 'ere, old soul," they heard the A.B. exclaim 
in the most friendly fashion, while he tapped the native 
on his bare chest, ** what's the use of this 'ere place at 
all? This 'ere Mesopotamia? What's the good of a 
country that's all sand and grit, with no good and 
decent water about it? Now, I could tell you of a 
country that's worth seeing! Know England, my 
lad?" 

You would have thought the native was perfectly 
acquainted with every portion of Great Britain, for he 
positively shook with merriment, and grinned a ghastly 
grin at the sailor. Then, as if to make the point quite 



I04 On the Road to Bagdad 

certain, he gave vent to a volume of guttural sounds, 
snapping his fingers, grinning and grimacing, till the 
sailor brought him to a sudden stop by tapping his 
chest again with one of his ponderous fingers. 

*'Just so, mate," he said as he puffed a cloud of 
smoke above the native's head. "Just so, old soul. 
But'arf-a-moM" 

The burly sailor extracted from his mouth a short 
black *' clay" with a hand which was so big and horny 
that it instantly attracted attention, and having puffed 
another huge cloud of smoke just past the ear of the 
giggling native, he tapped him on the chest again, 
with a peremptory and extremely firm finger, while he 
wagged his head sideways. 

*' 'Arf— a— mo', my beauty!" he said, while his com- 
rades grinned their appreciation of him. *' What's 
this 'ere you're a-sayin'? Sounds to me like so much 
gibberish, as if you was just a-cussin', and a-cussin' 
'ard too. What's it all about, old soul? Why not 
speak good, decent, honest English?" 

No doubt the native had as little idea of what the 
sailor was saying to him as that latter had of the dusky 
native's own remarks, yet the smiling faces round him, 
the friendly attitude of all, and that particularly friendly 
tap he was still receiving on his chest seemed to fill 
him with the utmost merriment. He positively bubbled 
over and gurgled with amusement, and grimaced till 
the honest sailor turned a face of good-humoured dis- 
gust towards his comrades. 

" Lor'," he exclaimed, '' if one had to live alongside 
a chap like this all one's born days! But he can't 
help it! He means well, you can see that, can't you? 
'Ere, Jim, flick out that packet of fakes you had this 



An Exploring-party 105 

mornin' and let the chap try a whiff. Perhaps he 
ain't used to cigarettes, but we'll soon larn 'im!" 

And 'Marn" him they did! For in a very little 
while the native was puffing away in the most con- 
tented manner possible, grimacing and gesticulating 
towards the group of sailors who clustered about him 
in the bows of the tiny motor-driven vessel. 

Meanwhile the Commander, and Geoff, and Philip 
were interested, if not highly amused, spectators; and 
it was only when the native had his cigarette fairly 
well going that the Commander coughed loudly so as 
to attract the attention of his men, and called to them. 

*' Now, my lads!" he said cheerily, for that was his 
habit with the men, and they loved him for it. *' Now, 
my lads, pass along that old scarecrow!" 

You should have seen the grin on the faces of his 
men as they heard him, and hastened to «bey his 
orders; and it seemed natural enough that their 
spokesman of a few moments earlier should be the 
one to pass the request on to the native. 

" 'Ere, old soul !" he said to him, pleasantly enough, 
and yet with a ring of authority which the native 
noticed instantly, and with perhaps a rather firmer tap 
of the finger upon his naked chest. " 'Ere, old soul, 
you're under orders! And just you pass yoursel aft, 
and no 'ankin' mind you, with the Commander ! You'll 
just answer all his questions straight out, and tell him 
the truth, and nothing but the truth, s'welp me!" 

If it had been left to the native to gather the mean- 
ing of these words he might have been still in the 
for'ard part of that motor-vessel, for, as the reader will 
have gathered already, not one single letter of the 
British alphabet, and not one single word of good, 



io6 On the Road to Bagdad 

honest English did he understand. But sundry sig- 
nificant nods of the head, and winks, and pointings in 
the direction of the Commander told him what was 
wanted, and presently he came climbing over, passing 
round the edge of the cabin, his long, lanky legs bare, 
his feet unshod, the scantiest of native wrappings 
around him. Yet for all his semi-nakedness the man 
was one to look at twice; one rather to admire than 
to despise; a child, and a handsome child withal, of 
this curious desert country. Like the Arab chief 
whom Geoff had captured, he was a fine specimen of 
humanity, fully grown, big and expansive, yet with 
refined features, and possessed of small hands and 
feet which gave him rather an air of breeding. A 
closely-cropped beard, getting a little grey at the 
point of the chin, set off a face which was honest, 
firm and intelligent. Yet he was only a humble 
fisherman, this man, and although possessed of fine 
physique, and of handsome appearance, yet had re- 
served the utmost respect for his superiors. He 
bowed low as he reached the aft part of the tiny 
vessel, and, at a word from Geoff, crouched native- 
fashion at the feet of the three officers. 

" Not such a scarecrow as I thought, after all," 
said the Commander. ''Keith, tell him he can go 
on smoking, and let us cross-examine him. Ask him 
where he thinks the Turks are hiding?" 

''Who knows. Excellency?" came the answer in a 
voice which was even and musical; "who can speak 
of anything for certain in these parts, where the waste 
of waters changes its outline every day and constantly. 
But there is a rumour that there are many of these 
proud and stiff-necked Turks hidden somewhere away 



An Exploring-party 107 

in these marshes, and, if that be so — as indeed it may 
be, for though rumour was ever a lying jade, yet 
often enough there is some truth in her — then the 
Turks will not be in these parts, but farther up the 
river, where the waste of waters breaks away from 
patches of rising ground, and where camps may be 
located." 

''Ask him how many days' journey from here?" 
asked the Commander, when Geoff had interpreted 
what the native had said. "We've enough fuel on 
board to take us, say, 200 miles, and if the marsh 
throughout is as it is here, with beds of reeds and 
mud sticking up in many places, and no doubt shoals 
where you least expect them, then progress will not 
be rapid, and we may be able to cover only ten miles 
a day. How many days, travelling at that rate, does 
he think it will require to bring us into the neighbour- 
hood of the Turkish camp?" 

The native wagged his head sagely when Geoff had 
asked him the question, and sat for a while staring 
out across the water at the nearest bank of reeds, 
now lit up and glistening in the glancing rays of the 
rising sun. 

"Excellency," he said at last, "that is a question 
to ask a wizard; it is of a truth a riddle, a riddle 
which none but this waste of waters can answer at the 
moment. But it may be that the journey will not be 
such a long one, for though these marshes change so 
constantly there is yet a line, down which the River 
Euphrates pours its waters, which may be followed 
at speed without fear of drowning, and without meet- 
ing with these islands of mud and reeds which fill the 
marshes in other directions. If the Excellency desires, 



io8 On the Road to Bagdad 

I will direct the boat to that line and convoy it west- 
ward. But there will come a time when we must 
depart from the course, for to adhere to it would mean 
the danger of running into the centre of the enemy, 
and so of becoming prisoners." 

For a little while the Commander and his two young 
officers discussed the situation, and then the former 
signalled to the man in charge of the engine to start 
it up. 

*' We'll get ahead at once," he said; "but let us 
try to be cautious. We have plenty of time before us, 
for the boat is well victualled, and there is ample 
water all round us; of course it is not fit to drink, 
and no one but a fool, or one utterly unused to these 
tropical climates, would dare to drink it. A mouthful, 
even, would mean a fever, perhaps a good deal worse. 
But some of those reeds cut from the islands and laid 
on the deck would make excellent fuel, and we have a 
stove right for'ard, and a boiler in which we can easily 
purify the water. You young fellows will already 
have learned the importance of a pure drinking-supply 
to troops on an expedition ; the same applies to sailors, 
of course. Give either of them absolutely pure water 
whenever you possibly can, and prevent 'em both 
from drinking from the first pool they come across ; 
supply them with good rations in addition, and don't 
march them about in a grilling sun unless it cannot be 
avoided, and you will keep your men in good health 
and strength, and fit to meet the enemy. It's the 
secret of campaigning — the great secret I ought to 
add — for, after all, when you send troops into the field, 
or into a place like Mesopotamia, you send 'em for 
one purpose only, and that to meet the enemy. The 



An Exploring-party 109 

men who fall sick weaken your forces, and encumber 
your hospitals and your transport; and sick men are 
men who go under, often enough, because of lack of 
pure water. Now, Keith, tell the old boy to give us 
the line for the river. Denman, I am going to post 
you right aft, to keep a watch in that direction. 
Keith, you'd best go forward with the native right 
into the bows, so as to be able to interpret anything 
he tells you. Now, lads, pick up your rifles, and let 
one of you come right aft with this officer, two others 
will station themselves for'ard, and two more will be 
on either side of me in the cabin. We have got to 
remember that we may very well find ourselves not 
the only inhabitants of this waste of waters. We have 
taken the precaution to make a very early start, and 
got in amongst these reeds during the darkness, so 
that I think I am right in feeling that no one is aware 
of this expedition. But there may be natives about. 
Ask your fellow, Keith." 

For answer the native shook his head vigorously. 

'* Excellency," he told Geoff, as they stood up in 
the bows of the vessel, *' it may be, for all I know, but 
it is hardly probable ; for in these wastes there is 
nothing to be gathered — no fish and no game — and 
why should a poor man come in this direction? Yet, 
listen a moment. There may be scouts of the enemy. 
No doubt the Turks are provided with bellums — the 
native boat we use in these parts — and it may well be 
that they have sent off scouts to pass down the waters 
and spy upon your brothers." 

"Then we have got to keep our eyes open," the 
Commander sang out to his men, when Geoff had 
interpreted. " If you see a boat, pass the word along 



no On the Road to Bagdad 

at once, but don't fire, for we shall be wise to make a 
capture, and so learn something of the enemy." 

By now the propeller of the little boat was thrashing 
the shallow waters of the marshes, with a vigour which 
made itself felt throughout the timbers of the tiny 
vessel. She throbbed from end to end, and vibrated 
under the feet of those who manned her. Steered by 
the Cox, and directed by Geoff — who took his line 
from the native — the vessel shot off at an angle, and, 
pushing her way rapidly through a maze of reed-clad 
islands, and hummocks of oozy mud, which cropped 
up in many parts, she finally reached a spot where 
the waste of waters stretched uninterruptedly to the 
west and north of them. Here, too, there was a dis- 
tinct change in the appearance of the water, for, while 
amongst the reedy islands of mud the marshes con- 
sisted of stagnant and dark-coloured water, there was 
a stream where they now were — a stream flowing 
gently past them — of lightish-yellow colour, in which 
particles of sand and debris swirled as one peered over 
the side of the motor vessel. The way of the boat, 
too, was retarded just a little as she headed up against 
the stream, a proof — if further proof was necessary — 
that they had now gained the channel of the Euphrates 
River. For three hours they motored their way steadily 
up this stream, seeing nothing to attract their atten- 
tion, and finding on either hand the same water waste, 
with its margin of muddy islands, extending into the 
far distance. A haze hung over these islands, as the 
heat of the sun drew the water upwards, while a faint, 
sickly odour was wafted from them. 

*' Fever!" said the Commander, as he smoked 
another pipe. ^'A night spent in amongst those 



An Exploring-party m 

islands of mud would be bad for a white man, let us 
hope that we shall find some pleasanter place as the 
darkness draws in upon us." 

That night, as a matter of fact, they tied up beside 
a sandy shelf which bordered the stream they had 
been following, and which ran upwards towards the 
desert. It was a species of sandy hillock, perhaps a 
mile across, which, being elevated, divided the waters. 
But who could say? Perhaps some years ago it had 
formed actually the bed of the Euphrates River, 
which had then flowed over and through it. But in 
the course of time the debris and sand borne along 
in the water had silted up, and formed a bank at this 
precise position; and succeeding layers of sand de- 
posited by the water had finally raised the bank, till, 
gathering firmness and dimensions as the days passed, 
it finally defied and defeated the river which had 
been the source of its existence. Then the channel 
of the Euphrates had been changed, and what had 
once been its bed, swept by the ever-descending flood 
of water coming from the centre of Mesopotamia, 
from Asiatic Turkey, had become now a glistening 
heap of firm, dry sand, which gave the expedition a 
splendid bivouac. 

'^An excellent place!" the Commander told Geoff, 
as the anchor was dropped, and the boat was paddled 
in close to the bank. '' We'll make our boat fast by 
driving pegs into the sand itself, and then we'll get 
ashore. A couple of men in the boat will be all that 
will be required, and the rest can accompany us." 

In half an hour they had their fire going, and that 
evening Philip and Geoff enjoyed the experience of 
an open-air camp under the starlight. Yet it was not 



112 On the Road to Bagdad 

always to be so pleasant, as they were to find, for, on 
the morrow, having set off soon after the first streak 
of dawn, and having pushed their way rapidly up the 
winding and almost invisible channel of the river, 
they suddenly came upon a sight which caused them 
to halt instantly. 

^*Stop that engine!" ordered the Commander sud- 
denly, '"Bout ship! If that's not a Turkish flat- 
bottomed vessel I'm a Dutchman." 

A long, low-built steamer had suddenly hove into 
sight far up the winding river, and, looking at her 
swiftly, Geoff realized in a moment that her decks 
were crowded with men dressed in khaki-coloured 
clothing. Swinging his glasses to his eyes, he fixed 
them on the vessel, and then called back at the Com- 
mander. 

*' Turks, without a doubt, sir," he said, *' I can 
recognize them easily. There's a man standing on 
a low bridge just above their heads who is wearing 
a fez, while opposite him there is an officer whom I 
should take to be German. There are fifty or more 
on the boat, and it is likely enough that they are an 
exploring-party." 

An instant later a shrill shriek was heard from the 
approaching vessel, as her steam whistle was put into 
operation ; then there was a flash from her side, and 
perhaps a quarter of a minute later a shot hit the 
water just behind the motor-boat, and, throwing up 
a huge cascade, almost drenched Geoff and his com- 
rades. When they had shaken the water out of their 
eyes, and looked again at the approaching vessel, they 
saw a string of boats which were towing after her 
being pulled for'ard. Then men tumbled over the low 



An Exploring-party 113 

sides of the vessel into the boats, while others ran 
into her bows, and, seizing their rifles, opened fire 
upon the occupants of the tiny vessel lying down 
below them. 

*'Go ahead!" said the Commander, as bullets 
spluttered into the water all round the vessel. *' Keith, 
come along aft here, so that we can talk the matter 
over. What do you think, lad?" he asked, as Geoff 
joined him. *' I don't like to put my helm about, 
and show my stern to that Turkish fellow." 

''Nor I!" Geoff agreed with him; ''and besides, 
we shan't have accomplished that for which we came 
into the marshes. It's bad luck, of course, sir, run- 
ning into an exploring-party of the enemy so soon 
after coming this way, but there are sure to be more 
coming behind them, and those are the fellows whose 
positions we have to make out. Why not try to 
dodge them? By running right off to our left into 
the marshes we should soon be hidden by the islands 
of mud and reeds, and then we could steal westwards 
till we were above those fellows ! " 

"Wait! What's that? Another vessel, eh?" ex- 
claimed the Commander, pointing to a spot higher up 
the river than that occupied by the Turkish vessel. 
"Ah!" 

Geoff looked, and took in the situation in an instant, 
for, beyond the low-built Turkish steamer which they 
had so unexpectedly sighted round a sharp bend of 
the river, he saw another steamer — a small pinnace — 
low, like themselves, and speedy, and making towards 
them now on the stream, at a pace which heaped a 
mass of water up in front of her. Once more his 
glasses went to his eyes, and for a while he remained 

(0 884) 8 



114 On the Road to Bagdad 

silent. Then he slowly dropped them into their case, 
lit a cigarette, and turned to his Commanding Officer. 

'*A fast steam-launch, sir," he said; "twenty men 
aboard her. It looks as though we should have quite 
a brisk little action." 

For perhaps a minute the Commander turned his 
gaze upon the pursuing vessel, whilst his own craft 
sped down the river; then he smiled grimly, and 
Geoff heard him chuckle. 

"Right!" he said. "A pretty little action! I 
believe you, Keith. Starboard your helm, Cox, and 
edge the boat off gradually towards the marshes. 
We'll induce that fellow to follow us till we are well 
away from the other vessel, so that she cannot support 
the launch with her gun ; then we'll see what sailors 
can do at carrying out an ambush. Lie down, men, 
it's only fools who won't take cover; keep as low as 
you can, and don't give 'em anything to fire at." 

Bullets, meanwhile, had been sweeping above the 
boat, and streaming their way past the ears of its 
occupants. Spurts of water rose on every hand, 
while now and again a cascade — a mere child to that 
thrown up by the shell which had been fired at them 
at the commencement of this encounter — would splash 
over the sides of the motor-vessel. Obedient to the 
order given them, yet grudgingly, for your sailor is 
a gallant fellow, the crew crouched low behind the 
sides of the vessel, leaving the Cox fully exposed, 
and the Commander still standing to his full height 
in the open cabin, and beside him Geoff, holding 
his ground — not wincing, not even dodging or bob- 
bing his head, as bullets flicked past him. 

"Nervous?" asked the Commander, as he stuffed 



An Exploring-party 115 

tobacco into his pipe and calmly set the weed alight. 
''Not you, Keith! Nor Denman either! That's 
good to see, though it is only what I expected. Now 
set her going at full speed, and we'll see what we can 
do to dodge those fellows." 

A long island of mud, clad with reeds, stood up before 
the motor-vessel, and it looked for a while as though 
the Commander had every intention of running her 
upon it; but at a signal from him — a signal made 
with a jerk of the hand which gripped his pipe — the 
Cox pushed his helm over, and the motor-boat shot 
past the end of the island, and, turning again, sped 
up behind it. A further jerk, and she turned off at 
a tangent, and, speeding across a waste of stagnant 
water, thrust her nose in between two reedy islands, 
following a channel which hardly seemed wide enough 
to accommodate her. Turning and twisting, and 
dodging to right and left, and once grounding with 
a dull and gentle thud upon the tail of an island, and 
breaking loose again because of her momentum, the 
vessel shot across another waste, and, rounding the 
end of a second stretch of oozy mud, was rapidly 
brought to a halt. 

**Ask your old gentleman whether the mud would 
bear a man," the Commander told Geoff abruptly. 

*' Truly, Excellency," came the immediate answer. 
*' These banks, though they quiver as one walks upon 
them, are yet solid, for the roots of the reeds have 
bound the mud together. Excellency, if I may ask 
a favour, let me land here, so that I may convey a 
warning to you." 

A moment later the man was ashore, and, at a nod 
from the Commander, Geoff accompanied him. Then, 



ii6 On the Road to Bagdad 

pushing their way through the reeds, they gained the 
farther side, and, cautiously making an opening through 
which they could watch, waited for the coming of their 
pursuers. It was perhaps five minutes later when the 
rattle of machinery came to their ears, and within a 
few seconds the Turkish vessel hove into sight as she 
thrashed her way through the waste of waters. That 
she had lost the direction of the motor-boat seemed 
certain, though the Turks aboard her must have 
known that they were not far behind their quarry. 
A loud order reached Geoff's ears, while the clank 
of machinery died down of a sudden ; then he saw 
the launch drift on towards the end of the island 
behind which the motor-vessel was hiding. Creeping 
back towards the Commander, he waved to him to 
attract his attention, and then called softly to him. 

''In five minutes they will be crossing the far end 
of this island, sir," he said; "it ought to give us an 
opportunity." 

"Come aboard, and bring the old gentleman with 
you," the Commander cried on the instant. "Now, 
boys, line the gun'l there, and hold your fire till I 
give the order. I've a little scheme on foot, and I'll 
be particularly grateful to you if you don't sink her. 
Shoot some of the crew, and capture the rest of them 
if need be. Now, my man, set her going!" 

The engine revolved again, and in a trice the pro- 
peller was thrashing the water; then, ever so gently 
and quietly, they stole up beside the island, while on 
the far side the Turkish launch drifted ever closer to 
them. 



CHAPTER VII 

Major Joseph Douglas 

While Geoff and his friends are aboard that motor- 
vessel, on the point of attacking the Turks aboard the 
steam-launch which had so unexpectedly opposed 
their progress up the River Euphrates, let us for a 
moment turn aside to follow the fortunes of another 
individual who has already been introduced to our 
readers. 

We have already recounted how Major Joseph 
Douglas, a ^ Apolitical" officer, said farewell to his 
friends in that frontier fortress far up amongst the 
hills of India, and how he disappeared, as indeed 
was his wont, on another of those long expeditions 
on which the Government of India employed him. 
We have said that he reached the Persian Gulf and 
made his way to Basra, and thence up country on a 
river steamer till the walls of Bagdad enclosed him. 
Then, having disappeared from the ken of his fellows 
entirely, and having contrived almost to reach the 
heart of Asiatic Turkey, the war — which was to drag 
so many nations into its toils — broke out, and saw the 
Kaiser's legions overwhelming Belgium, and invading 
France and Poland. 

That Turkey should have been drawn into this con- 
flict was perhaps as much a matter for astonishment 
to the Turks themselves as to other peoples, for they 

117 



ii8 On the Road to Bagdad 

had, in fact, no grievance against Great Britain or 
her allies. Indeed, Britain has always befriended 
the Turk, and done what she could for him; yet 
late years — those years just prior to the outbreak of 
this vast war which now tears Europe into pieces — 
saw what may be termed a revolution in the country 
of the Sultan. The ''Young Turk Party" arose, a 
party which grew in power — thanks, no doubt, to the 
scheming help of Germany — till it was able to de- 
throne the Sultan himself and capture the reins of 
Government. In the hands of German schemers — 
the agents of the Kaiser and his war lords — these 
ambitious young Turks were easily deluded, and, 
carried away by the successes they had already met 
with, listened eagerly to the words of the tempters. 
There was gold to be had in abundance, gold, if the 
Young Turk Party would but carry out the behests 
of the German War Lord, if they would but follow 
a plan which, they were told, would lead not only to 
their own wealth — for rewards and presents would be 
poured upon them — but to the greatness of Turkey. 
War was imminent, they no doubt were informed, 
and Germany had designs upon the conquest of all 
nations. Why should Turkey be unfriendly to the 
Germans? Why should the subjects of the new 
Sultan fight with the subjects of the Kaiser? There 
was no desire on the part of the War Lord of Berlin 
to conquer the dwellers by the Bosphorus, the Turks 
living in Europe or in Asia, but only the fervent 
wish to be friendly with them. Then here was the 
opportunity! Let Turkey side with Germany against 
France and Russia, and, if need be, against Great 
Britain; let her close the Dardanelles utterly, and so 



Major Joseph Douglas 119 

shut off the Russian enemy from the Mediterranean ; 
and then let her but wait till Germany had broken the 
fighting forces of France and of the Tsar of Russia; 
then would come the turn of those Powers in the 
Balkans — once the subjects of Turkey. Serbia would 
be overridden, would be decimated, would be stamped 
out of existence; if need be, Bulgaria, the ancient 
enemy of Turkey, would be destroyed completely. 
And then see what would happen ! The forces of 
Germany and of Austria would be linked up with 
those of the Sultan, and who could stay their pro- 
gress? With millions of men under arms, with engi- 
neers to construct railways throughout Asiatic Turkey, 
Egypt would be wrested for the Turks from Great 
Britain — Egypt the heritage of Turkey; Persia could 
be gained; Afghanistan itself, and even India con- 
quered. Look at the prospect! The eyes of the 
Young Turk Party were blinded by the brilliance of 
such a proposition ; and for those who were more 
sagacious, who knew the German to be a schemer, 
there was gold — gold in abundance — with which to 
bribe them, gold with which to gild their doubt, and 
to make them unwilling friends of Germany. 

Little wonder, perhaps, that the guileless and inex- 
perienced, if unscrupulous, *' Young Turk Party" 
listened to the crafty words of the Kaiser's agents, 
and decided to throw in their lot with them. Little 
wonder that, following upon the outbreak of the war, 
they welcomed the coming of the Goeben and the 
Breslau — two of Germany's most powerful vessels — 
and, having admitted them to the Bosphorus, closed 
the Dardanelles entirely. Now, see the result of such 
a movement! In the Black Sea itself the Turks were 



I20 On the Road to Bagdad 

hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned by the vessels 
of the Russians— that is, prior to the coming of the 
Goeben and the Breslau\ but now that those two 
vessels had reached the scene, there was not a vessel 
in the Tsar's navy capable of easily standing up to 
them. Those two, with the help of what Turkey 
could send from her dockyards, might very well clear 
the Black Sea of all Russian vessels, and make the 
transport of Turkish troops to Trebizond, and to the 
frontier lying between Turkey and Russia, along the 
Caucasus Mountains, a matter of ease and safety. 
Then the coming of those two powerful vessels would 
enable the Young Turk Party to reinforce their army 
in the Caucasus, and, perhaps, to strike a blow there 
which would cause heavy Russian losses. In any 
case, a force so disposed would necessitate the placing 
of Russian armies to oppose them, and Russian armies 
so withdrawn from the forces of the Tsar would weaken 
the troops needed to stem the tide of Germans and 
Austrians then pouring into Poland. 

Looked at from every point of view, the coming of 
Turkey into the conflict was likely to be of enormous 
advantage to the Kaiser, and of signal disadvantage 
to Britain and her allies. That it was likely to im- 
prove the fortunes of the Turks was problematical 
only. Indeed, there is little doubt that if Germany 
had carried out to the full the first portion of her pro- 
gramme, and had shattered the forces of France and 
of Russia, Turkey would have become merely a 
puppet in the hands of the Hohenzollerns. Germans 
would — and may even yet — sweep into Asiatic Turkey, 
and, had they broken the power of their enemies else- 
where — as fortunately they have not done — the Turks 



Major Joseph Douglas 121 

would undoubtedly have become vassals of the Kaiser. 
As it is, they have thrown in their lot with the Ger- 
mans, and it would appear as if they were to gain 
nothing but losses and privations. 

But, in any case, they had become enemies of 
Britain and her allies, and, seeing that Major Joseph 
Douglas was most decidedly a Briton, they were 
enemies of his, and he was an alien in the midst of 
them. Such a well-known person as the Major — for 
let us say at once that if Major Joseph Douglas was 
known far and wide in India, a welcome guest in 
many an officers' mess and in a host of cantonments, 
he was, in a rather different way, just as well known 
in the heart of Mesopotamia — was now an alien, an 
enemy, and must needs look to his own safety. 

Douglas Pasha had, in fact, a most uncanny way of 
eluding the Turkish governors of the various provinces 
he visited. He came openly to them, and often enough 
called upon them in the most friendly manner pos- 
sible, receiving from them the warmest welcome. 
Yet, under the silken cloak of friendship, and beneath 
the welcome which every well-bred man extends to 
another — and your Turk is a gentleman, whatever else 
you may say of him — there existed always, when 
Douglas Pasha turned up upon the scene, a feeling 
of doubt, of hesitancy, almost of danger, in the minds 
of those Turkish governors. Crafty themselves, they 
knew well enough that he had come to investigate 
every feature of the country, to ascertain what Turkish 
forces were maintained, to map the roads, no doubt, to 
investigate the progress of such railways as Turkey 
possessed, and to unearth a hundred different matters. 
It followed, therefore, often enough, that Douglas 



122 On the Road to Bagdad 

Pasha's exit from the palace of a governor was fol- 
lowed, almost automatically, by the dogging of his 
footsteps. Spies followed him from place to place, 
spies who watched his every movement like a com- 
pany of cats; spies whom the cheerful and cunning 
Douglas Pasha on every occasion managed to elude. 

Thus, he was within a few days of the outbreak of 
war at Bagdad, where news of European matters had 
not yet reached the populace. Yet the governor knew 
that war was impending — that Turkish governor upon 
whom the Major had called that very afternoon, and 
who had bowed the gallant officer out of his palace, 
had smiled in such friendly fashion upon him, and 
who, once his back was turned, had snapped his 
fingers, had clapped his hands, and had set ma- 
chinery in motion to have Douglas Pasha followed 
and watched. Yet, strange as it may seem, Geoff 
Keith's most excellent guardian was by no means the 
simpleton he seemed, and by no means ignorant of 
events then impending. 

He strolled down the centre of the Bazaar, a likeable 
figure in his dust-coloured travelling-suit, a tall, active 
man, with the face and the bearing of a soldier. He 
stopped to converse with an Arab dealer in brass-ware, 
seated cross-legged upon his little stall, and chatted 
with him as if he were himself a native. Then he 
passed on to another stall, leaving the Arab, usually 
so uninterested in the affairs of this world, keenly 
curious as to the nationality of the stranger who had 
addressed him. A dozen yards higher up, there was 
an Armenian Jew selling jewellery, and with him, too, 
Douglas Pasha chatted in the most pleasant manner 
and in the Armenian tongue; and then he strolled on 



Major Joseph Douglas 123 

for a while, till, noticing the angular figure of a big- 
boned Jew seated upon another stall, with a mass of 
embroidery laid out before him, he turned back and 
strolled towards him. 

*' Many fine wares to sell, my friend?" he said, 
addressing him in the Armenian tongue. "Our 
brother yonder has jewellery beyond compare; but, 
in truth, these wares that you have to offer would 
delight the heart of a houri." 

Bending down, he picked up one of the gaudily- 
embroidered pieces of cloth and admired it openly; 
while the Jew, after answering him in a monosyl- 
lable, and casting his eyes up at the Major's face 
for just one moment, bent them down again upon his 
goods, as if fearful that someone might filch them 
from him. 

''Fine gold, friend, and stuff woven in the heart of 
Persia," the Major told him. '' And what may be the 
price of this, my friend?" 

As might be expected, the price which this hook- 
nosed and somewhat ancient Jew set upon the article 
selected was simply immense, more than treble its 
actual value. But, then, it is a habit of the East, 
where a purchase more or less is not a matter of 
importance, where there is time for everything, and 
hurry is a thing not to be dreamed of. Shopping in 
London or in some busy provincial city and shopping 
at Constantinople or in the Bazaar at Bagdad are two 
utterly different affairs altogether; the one all haste, 
intermingled with the most business-like methods, and 
the other all dilatoriness, with a strong flavour of 
friendly haggling, when hours must be passed before 
the price of the simplest object is settled. 



124 On the Road to Bagdad 

*' And low in price," the Jew told the Major, glanc- 
ing cunningly up at him. " Low in price, Excellency, 
as truly as I sit before you. But wait, there are other 
goods for sale within this store; be seated, take a post 
of honour on this bench, and let the youth bring coffee 
to us." 

His bent figure became upright for a moment, and 
he clapped his hands loudly. At the same instant he 
swung his eyes round that portion of the Bazaar visible 
from the stall where he was wont to sit the livelong 
day, and dropped them instantly. Yet that one glance 
seemed to have sufficed, for a smile seamed his face 
for just one second. Then he rapped out a sharp 
order to the Turkish boy who appeared at his sum- 
mons, and sat on motionless, without a word, without 
even venturing to offer more of his wares, till the coffee 
had been produced and laid before himself and the 
Major. It was then, as the English officer tipped the 
tiny egg-shaped cup to his lips, that the eyes of the 
two met. 

'* Well!" demanded the Major. 

^' Excellency, beware! There is news from the out- 
side world," the Jew told him, and then again swept 
a swift glance round the confines of the Bazaar. 
''Listen, Excellency!" he said, snatching another 
piece of embroidered ware and holding it up before the 
Major, while he made pretence to point to the gilded 
work upon it; ' 'listen. Excellency! There is war!" 

"Ah!" came from the Major. 

" War between France and Russia on the one hand 
and the German enemy on the other." 

"And Britain?" asked the Major breathlessly, 
though to an observer, even more than casual, he 



Major Joseph Douglas 125 

seemed to be engaged in most carefully scrutinizing 
the embroidery. *'And Britain?" he asked again. 
*'She " 

''There are things that seem strange to one of us 
people in this land of Turkey," said the Jew quietly, 
stretching out a hand to pick up more of his wares. 
"There is a place, a country, perhaps peopled by a 
great nation for aught I know, a country known as 
Belgium. Listen, Excellency! The Germans have 
invaded that country, have burst their way into it, 
have fired upon the people, and have killed many of 
them." 

" That means war, war for Great Britain," said 
the Major, tossing the pieces of cloth down and shak- 
ing his head as though he could not agree to purchase 
them. Then he picked up another piece, and while 
he scrutinized it told the Jew to go on with the story. 

"Proceed!" he said. "Belgium is a country of 
much importance. Germany had sworn, with Britain 
and France and other nations, to preserve that country 
inviolate. Then she has broken her word!" 

" As Germans ever break their word," the Armenian 
Jew told him. "Yes, Excellency, in the years that 
have gone by, and increasingly so in these last few 
years, I have met with German after German. In 
public life I know them not, but in trade, I say, 
beware of them ! They steal behind the scenes, they 
are mean, and thrifty, and energetic, and possessed 
of many virtues and many failings. I like them not, 
and trust them not at all ! So, Excellency, they swore 
to defend this country! And yet tore up that treaty, 
and poured soldiers upon her? Truly that is an act 
of baseness seldom heard of." 



126 On the Road to Bagdad 

" And means war for my country," the Major told 
him. '* And then, my friend?" he asked swiftly. 

''And then, from the same source, I gather that 
there is a stir in Constantinople, that there is a great 
movement of troops and of vessels, and that in a little 
Avhile, even as we speak, perhaps, Turkey may have 
joined in with Germany." 

If Major Joe Douglas felt inclined to give vent to 
a shrill whistle of astonishment, for, after all, he was 
astonished — though this was a happening which he 
had expected now for many years past — he managed 
to suppress the wish very promptly. He contrived to 
go on bargaining and haggling with the old Jew for 
perhaps half an hour, and then, throwing down another 
piece of embroidered cloth and shaking his head, he 
passed from the stall and again along the Bazaar. 

Some twenty yards higher up, when near the Turkish 
portion, he cannoned into a man of moderate height, 
dressed like himself in European clothing, a fat, very 
stoutly-built man, possessed of a head so closely 
cropped that it was hideous, and of a face from which 
sprouted a greyish - brown moustache, the centre of 
which was stained a darker colour bv much ciQ^arette- 
smoking. This individual wore a broad -brimmed 
panama upon his head, as a general rule, but at that 
moment carried it in one hand, and was fanning him- 
self with energy. 

'' Pardon!" said the Major. '' Sorry!" 

''Ach! Itvasyou!" 

Undoubtedly German, the stout individual into 
whom the Major had cannoned turned at first an angry 
face upon him, a face which a moment later was lit up 
by smiles and divided almost asunder by a capacious 



Major Joseph Douglas 127 

grin, stretching a most enormous mouth from ear 
to ear and disclosing two rows of stained and yellow 
teeth within it. Of a truth, the appearance of this 
individual was not altogether prepossessing; and yet, 
putting his yellow teeth aside, forgetting for one 
moment his huge and unwieldy proportions, and his 
smooth-cropped head and other undesirable features, 
the frank expression of his face, the broadness of his 
grin, even, were at once captivating. 

"My tear Major!" he exclaimed, holding one fat 
hand up, palm foremost, while he still continued to 
fan himself with his panama. *' My tear Major, and 
who would have thought to meet you here, you of all 
people!" 

*' Why, von Hildemaller!" 

**Jah! Von Hildemaller! Dis is der greadest 
bleasure in mein life. Mein tear Major!" 

The big, fat German stood back from the tall, 
sprucely-dressed, and brisk-looking English soldier, 
and surveyed him with a smile which would have 
melted the heart of the most implacable of enemies. 
Von Hildemaller was geniality itself, brimful of smiles 
and of friendliness; and, having mopped his stream- 
ing face and fanned himself again with his panama, 
he stretched out his broad palm and gripped the one 
which Major Douglas presented to him. 

'*My tear Major!" he exclaimed again, puffing 
heavily, for, to be sure, what with his own stoutness 
of figure, and the close and confined atmosphere with- 
in the Bazaar, the German was none too comfortable. 
" And to think dat you vas here of all der places in 
der world!" He held up his two hands now, the 
better to express his astonishment, while his twink- 



128 On the Road to Bagdad 

ling and extremely merry eyes shot a swift, if not 
cunning, glance at the soldier. 

*' And you vas here long?" he demanded, mopping 
his face again with energy, and using for that pur- 
pose a huge handkerchief of Turkish red silk, which 
would have done duty at a pinch for a table-cloth. 
**Nein? Nod long, you say? Perhabs four, five, six 
days?" 

The Major extracted his cigarette case from his 
pocket and offered it politely to the German, as if 
hinting at the same moment that questions were hardly 
to his fancy. 

**And you?" he asked when von Hildemaller had 
helped himself and lighted up. " But there, what is 
the good of asking you, my friend, von Hildemaller? 
You are here to-day and gone to-morrow. One finds 
you in Bagdad perhaps, and then, within a week, in 
Constantinople; in Kut, or even in Basra. And, ah! 
you are such a busy man, von Hildemaller. Men, 
such as you, who purchase in such large quantities the 
dates grown in this country must be up and about, to 
make your businesses thrive." 

Was there a cunning glint in those rather deep-sunk, 
small, yet merry eyes of the German? Did those two 
uneven rows of yellow teeth come together of a sudden 
with a snap indicative of annoyance? No, no! such 
a suggestion was entirely out of the question, for see, 
von Hildemaller was smiling most genially at this tall 
Briton. 

**Ah! der you vas!" he told the Major, laughing 
uproariously. ^' It vas you who always liked to make 
der fun! * Here do-day and gone do-morrow.' Ha! 
ha! you make me laugh! And you? And you, my 



Major Joseph Douglas 129 

tear Major, id is you who go here do-day and dere 
do-morrow, and you do nod even buy dades or oder 
produce of dis country." 

Behind the cloud of smoke which he shot from 
between his thick Hps, and sent bubbhng- out through 
his discoloured and drooping moustache, there was 
a cunning leer on the face of the German — a leer 
hidden a moment later by a smile transcending in its 
friendliness any that had gone before it. Fanning 
himself with his panama, and smoking violently the 
cigarette with which the Major had presented him, he 
stood in the centre of the Bazaar, careless of the 
obstruction he formed and of the difficulties he made 
for the passers-by, while he chatted with Teutonic 
eagerness with Douglas Pasha. And all the while, as 
he smiled and smirked, and sometimes leered, behind 
clouds of smoke, he was summing up the appearance, 
the height, the broad shoulders, the shapely figure, 
and the active limbs of the Englishman. 

" Mein Gott! But if all my brothers were like 
him!" he told himself. ''If all the subjects of the 
Kaiser were as tall, and as straight, and as slim, and 
as active! Then the thing would be done! There 
would be no doubt about it; the World would be 
surely conquered! But, pshaw! It will be done! 
The war-dogs are unleashed already, and though there 
is not much news as yet, though it is only Belgium 
which is already almost conquered, to-morrow, the 
next day perhaps, surely within a few hours of this, 
there will be news of the undoing of France and the 
capture of Paris. Himmel! And then?" 

This breezy, stout, perspiring, and extremely genial 
fellow quite lost himself in a brown study as he re- 

(C834) 9 



I30 On the Road to Bagdad 

fleeted on the greatness of his own country and on 
the news of triumph which he anticipated. 

Let us explain the case in regard to the jovial 
von Hildemaller — a man who knew the inside of 
Mesopotamia almost as well as Douglas Pasha did. 
After all, though he might be a trader in dates, as 
indeed he professed, he was still before all a German. 
A German in heart and in thought; a German, above 
all, in ambition. Was it likely that he had come to 
Mesopotamia for the single purpose of trading in 
dates alone? Bearing in mind the fact that practically 
no German has left the Fatherland for some foreign 
country for the single purpose of following his own 
fortune alone, one may take it for certain that, like 
all the others, von Hildemaller also went on a 
mission for his Government. He was one of that 
enormous band which practised peaceful penetration 
for the Kaiser, who went armed with Government 
funds to some desirable spot in some still more desir- 
able country, and who there made for himself a busi- 
ness which gave ample excuse for his remaining in 
the country. Yet all the while he was engaged, with 
Teutonic energy, in looking well about him, in dis- 
covering the secrets of the country, in ascertaining its 
defences, and in sending sheaves of notes to his Home 
Government. Let us say at once that this von Hilde- 
maller was none other than the stout and genial 
German whom Commander Houston had come upon 
in Basra — the one whom he had indicated as von 
Schmidt — and from the gallant Commander we have 
already learned that, genial, and smiling, and friendly 
though this German trader might be, and very charm- 
ing to those with whom he came in contact — whether 



Major Joseph Douglas 131 

they were Britons or not — yet behind his guise of 
merchant he was indeed a Government Agent — an 
energetic, far-seeing, and most likely an unscrupulous 
agent — placed in Asiatic Turkey for the one purpose of 
informing the Kaiser and his war lords of the doings 
of the Turks, of the British, and of the Russians; and 
kept there, ostensibly as a merchant, but really as a 
spy, to foster the ambitious designs of his countrymen. 

Did Douglas Pasha suspect this German? Did he 
realize that behind those smiling eyes and those wide 
curving lips there was a cunning brain and a lying 
tongue, ready to deceive and thwart him? If he did, 
he gave no indication of that fact. For he chatted 
easily, smiling back at the German in as friendly a 
manner as possible, apparently watching more closely 
the people passing to and fro in the Bazaar than the 
face and the figure of the man who had accosted him. 
It was with a hearty handshake and a friendly nod 
that he parted with the German, and went striding up 
through the Bazaar, past the hook-nosed Jew with 
whom he had appeared to bargain, and so on to the 
rooms he was occupying. 

As for von Hildemaller, he tossed away the stump 
of the cigarette he had been smoking, and watched 
the departing figure of the British officer through 
half-closed lids, while he still panted and mopped his 
forehead. Then, thrusting his panama upon his 
shaven head, he looked craftily about him for a 
moment, and, having assured himself that no one in 
particular was watching him, lifted his right hand to 
his shoulder and made a sudden signal. A moment 
later a tall, sleek Turk slid up from an adjacent stall, 
and halted beside him: 



132 On the Road to Bagdad 

*' My master?" he asked, in the Turkish tongue. 

**You saw him," demanded the German curtly, 
with that brutal abruptness common to the German. 
'* That man — that Douglas Pasha — you saw the man?" 

'* I did. I watched and waited yonder. And then?" 
asked the Turk. 

*'Go and kill him, that's all! Go and slay the 
man!" von Hildemaller told him, turning upon his 
emissary just as friendly a smile as ever he had turned 
upon Joe Douglas. ** There is no need to discuss 
the matter further, for you know the man and you 
have the method. Go then ! When it is done come 
back to me and you shall be rewarded." 

Who would have thought the worthy von Hilde- 
maller capable of such words, or of giving such a 
dastardly order? Indeed, at the very moment when 
he was condemning the gallant Major to death by 
the hand of this Turkish assassin, the stout German 
looked so utterly genial, so entirely friendly and 
harmless, that none could possibly have suspected 
the real gist of his orders. Yet, as we have inferred 
already, behind those smiling, merry eyes, which 
looked so frankly and so honestly at people, there 
was a clever scheming brain, and behind those lips 
which were never stern, and seemed ever to be parted 
amiably, was a tongue given to much lying. Let us 
add, too, the fact that that brain was capable of invent- 
ing acts which would have shamed an Englishman, 
and of producing orders even more dastardly than that 
which had already been given. Indeed, there was no 
limit to the crimes which von Hildemaller could per- 
petrate, more particularly if they were for the ultimate 
benefit of his own country. With the smooth, smiling, 



Major Joseph Douglas 133 

genial face almost of a child, he was at heart a wretch, 
a cruel, scheming, cunning creature, an unscrupulous 
agent, capable of planning any atrocity. When that 
was said, we have von Hildemaller's full character, 
and we have merely to add that, like many of his 
kidney, when the planning was done, when the 
schemes for assassination and murder were arranged, 
the power for evil of this German suddenly subsided. 
He could scheme, but he lacked the courage to carry 
out his enterprise. His was the crafty brain which 
arranged the deed but contrived to get another to 
carry it out for him. Thanks to a Government which 
supplied him with ample funds, he could command 
in this country a host of ruffians. Pooh! The ass- 
assination of a British officer was quite a small matter, 
to be arranged on the spur of the moment, and to cost 
not so much as a second thought, and no great sum 
of gold when all was considered. 

Von Hildemaller snapped his fingers and mopped 
his face again as the Turk sped away from him ; then, 
lighting a German cigar, and puffing at it till he got it 
going to his satisfaction, he strolled — waddled rather 
— through the Bazaar, and on to his own quarters. 

*' Quite a nice sort of fellow, that Douglas Pasha!" 
he was telling himself as he went. *' For a Briton, quite 
a respectable individual ! Conceited? Yes! But then, 
that's a fault of the nation ; but honest, clear-headed, 
I think, friendly and — yes — certainly — simple!" 

''Simple!" did he say? If the worthy German, 
waddling through the Bazaar, could have seen Major 
Douglas at that moment, he might have had cause to 
reflect a little, and to change his opinion. For, 
though the gallant Major may have made pretence at 



134 On the Road to Bagdad 

simplicity when meeting the German, though he may- 
have given the impression of being shallow, of being 
thoughtless, and of possessing not so much as an 
atom of cunning, yet Douglas Pasha had not travelled 
through Mesopotamia, had not met hosts of Germans, 
had not studied the history of Germany and her 
people, without learning many lessons. It was a habit 
of this gallant officer to study unconsciously the char- 
acter of every individual with whom he came in con- 
tact, and thus it happened that the worthy von Hilde- 
maller had, as it were, come under the microscopic 
examination of this British officer. 

'* Very charming, ahem! I am sure. A most excel- 
lent fellow to meet in a cafe, say on the Grand Boule- 
vard in Paris, or in the Unter den Linden in Berlin. 
A generous host, a loud-speaking, merry fellow, but 
insincere, unscrupulous — like his people — out for 
something big, something to benefit his own country; 
to be carefully watched, and distrusted, and yet to be 
met in the most friendly manner possible." 

That was the Major's summing-up of the excellent 
and cunning von Hildemaller; and now, as he took 
the nearest cut back to his own apartments in the city 
of Bagdad, apartments which he had occupied on 
more than one occasion, there was something in his 
face which, if the German could have seen it, would 
have warned him that Douglas Pasha was hardly so 
simple as he anticipated. 

'* Unfortunate meeting that German," Joe Douglas 
was telling himself as he hurried along. '' Of course 
he knows just as well as I do that war has been 
declared between Great Britain and Germany, and 
that Turkey is likely to come into the conflict. That 



Major Joseph Douglas 135 

being the case, he and I are hardly likely to remain 
on speaking terms after this; indeed, he'll look upon 
me as a dangerous enemy, just as I look upon him. 
Shouldn't wonder if his hirelings are already watching 
me, and — yes — there are tales of the worthy Herr von 
Hildemaller which aren't too pleasant." 

Rapping sharply on the door of his lodgings, he 
was admitted by an Armenian servant, and at once 
strode into his sitting-room. Throwing himself into 
a cane-seated chair and lighting a cigarette, he then 
rapped sharply on the table. 

'* Pack up," he ordered; *' we leave in five minutes. 
Wait! What's that?" 

Someone was rapping on the floor below them, 
someone who called in low tones for admission. In- 
stantly Joe Douglas sprang to his feet, and, pulling the 
chair away, and the table, dragged a piece of Turkish 
carpet on one side, disclosing a narrow trap-door. 

*^ Enter!" he called, and helped the person below 
who had demanded admission to raise the opening. 

And slowly, as he did so, there emerged from a 
dark hole below, by means of a roughly-made ladder, 
the big, bony, angular form of that same hook-nosed 
Jew with whom he had haggled in the Bazaar not half 
an hour before. 

^'H-h-'sh! Listen, Excellency!" The man stood 
half in and half out of the opening, one warning talon 
held upward, his beady eyes fixed on Douglas Pasha, 
his lips trembling. ^*That man! That German 
hound! That scoundrel!" 

The gallant Major was the very last individual to 
show alarm. In fact, fuss and worry were things he 
hated intensely, and his nonchalance on all occasions 



136 On the Road to Bagdad 

was something which long ago had attracted the 
admiration of his comrades. He still smoked on, 
and, throwing himself into his chair, and flinging his 
legs on the table, he smiled at the Jew and bade him 
proceed with the story. 

''Yes, the German, von Hildemaller!" he said. 
*' A most excellent gentleman ! And you said beware, 
my friend, did you not? But surely " 

He gave vent to a laugh, an ironical laugh, which 
grated on the ears of those listening, and which warned 
them that, though the German may have considered 
this British officer to be childishly simple, he was yet 
well aware of the danger which surrounded him. 

''Listen, Excellency!" said the Jew, emerging now 
completely from the chamber beneath the room in 
which Joe Douglas was seated. "I watched the 
scene from my stall. Long ago I warned Your Excel- 
lency that this German had no love for you, that his 
hirelings were watching you and dogging your steps, 
and that some day he would do you a mischief. Now 
the day has arrived ! Even as you hurried away from 
that accidental meeting with him, I saw him call to 
one whom I know to be nothing but an assassin — a 
wretch — whose knife is at the bidding of anyone who 
can pay him money — one who should long ago have 
been hanged in the market-place. Leaving my stall, 
I followed this rascal, and saw him call to others. 
Even now they are arming, and, as dusk falls — which 
will be within an hour perhaps — they will break a way 
into this dwelling and carry out the purpose of this 
German." 

Joe Douglas whistled, a merry whistle, and smiled 
in the most friendly fashion at the Jew. He even got 



Major Joseph Douglas 137 

up from his chair, still smoking, and patted him re- 
assuringly on the shoulder. 

**My friend," he said, *'I thank you from the 
bottom of my heart for this warning; not this time 
alone, but on many occasions, have you proved a real 
friend to me, and may it be many a day before I forget 
your loyalty. But, as it happened, I guessed the in- 
tentions of our worthy friend von Hildemaller. Al- 
ready I have given orders to pack up all my belongings, 
and soon, in a little while indeed, we shall be out of 
this place, leaving it to the hired assassins of the 
German." 

There was bustle in that little house in the ten 
minutes which followed, all hands being engaged in 
packing the Major's belongings. Then, having com- 
pleted the work to his satisfaction, the Jew and the 
Armenian servant of Douglas Pasha dragged his 
trunks through the opening down into the cellar be- 
neath. Long before that, Joe Douglas had trans- 
formed himself into an absolute replica of the Jew who 
had come to warn him, and, indeed, looked the part 
to perfection. Then, casting a hurried glance round, 
and throwing the light from an electric torch into 
every corner — for already the dusk was falling, and 
the house opposite darkened that in which he had 
been living — he slid through the opening in the floor, 
and gently lowered the trap-door after him, having 
just before that dragged the table across it. Then the 
three made their way to the far edge of the cellar, and, 
ascending some steps, entered a narrow alley. There, 
at the bidding of the Major, his two companions went 
off to their left, while Joe Douglas made ready to 
venture into the open. 



138 On the Road to Bagdad 

'' You will go to the old quarters," he told them in 
a whisper, ''while I see what is happening in the 
street yonder. To-night, as the moon rises, you will 
have a conveyance ready for me, and to-morrow we 
shall be well out in the desert." 

But a minute before, Douglas Pasha, in spite of the 
rags with which he was now covered, was without 
doubt the tall British officer who had made his way 
into the heart of the city of Bagdad ; but now, as the 
need to act up to his disguise arrived, he became trans- 
formed in a manner which was really remarkable. 
Leaning on a long, stout stick, his head and shoulders 
bent, and his legs tottering, he stumbled from the 
alley into the open street, and shuffled and clattered 
his way along past the door of his own dwelling. It 
was there that he almost collided, in the dusk, with 
three Turkish rascals, one of whom was preparing to 
break the door in with a crowbar. Yet the Jew took 
no notice of them, but stumbled past, muttering into 
the cloak which covered his head, talking to himself, 
and pulling his rags round him. A little farther on, 
less than a hundred yards, perhaps, he caught sight 
of a rotund and perspiring figure in a sunken door- 
way — a figure which was faintly illuminated by an oil 
lamp hanging in a passage opposite. It was the 
figure of von Hildemaller, who had crept to this spot 
to watch the doings of his hired assassins. Again it 
was characteristic of the Major that he halted in front 
of the man, careless of the consequences. 

"Money! Money to buy food and lodging," he 
whined, holding out a shuddering, shaking hand, 
while his whole frame swayed and tottered. " Money, 
Excellency, to keep body and soul within me!" 



Major Joseph Douglas 139 

*^ Money! Bah!" The German struck at him with 
the light cane he was carrying, and threw a glance of 
hatred and contempt after the tottering figure of the 
Jew as he retreated. 

Then with wide-open ears he listened as the door 
of the house along the street was burst open, and 
waited breathlessly for news from his assassin. It 
was with a storm of rage and disappointment that 
he learned that the place was empty, that Douglas 
Pasha was gone, and that the scheme for ending his 
energies in Mesopotamia had been defeated. 

Yet the cunning of this German was not always to 
meet with such ill success, for though Douglas Pasha 
contrived to escape from Bagdad that night, and made 
his way into the desert, there came a day when von 
Hildemaller traced him. Also there came a day 
when Douglas Pasha — a prisoner then, and none too 
well treated — contrived to get a message out of the 
Turkish fortress in which he was incarcerated. Even 
as Geoff Keith, and Philip, and Commander Houston 
braced themselves for a stiff engagement with the 
Turks aboard the steam-launch which had been pur- 
suing them, that message was speeding down the 
Tigris towards the British forces. It was a request 
for help, but with no definite statement of the position 
where Douglas Pasha was imprisoned. And there 
were miles of desert country to traverse, and hundreds 
of enemies to pass, ere the messenger could bear his 
missive to our Head-quarters. It was a toss-up, 
indeed, as to whether the news of the Major's plight 
would ever reach his own people; just as it was a toss- 
up whether Geoff and his comrades would ever contrive 
to beat off the Turks who were about to assail them. 



CHAPTER VIII 

The Motor-boat in Action 

There was a deathly silence about the reed-clad island 
which separated the motor-boat, with its British crew, 
which was stealing along one side of it, and the wide- 
stretching marshes on the farther side, where the 
Turkish launch forged her way slowly, steering for the 
far end of the island. There was just the gentle purr 
of the petrol motor aboard the British boat as it slowly 
turned over — that and the occasional click of a rifle- 
lock, as one of the men saw to his weapon. From 
the far side, however, there came voices on occasion, 
smothered every now and again by the burr and hiss 
of steam as it escaped from the safety-valve above the 
boiler. Geoff looked over the side and peered into the 
water; then he took a boathook and thrust it down- 
ward till it struck the bottom of the swamp close 
beside them. An instant later he had plucked the 
Commander by the sleeve, and was whispering to 
him. 

**Look, sir," he said; **not much more than two- 
feet-six of water; you can see the mark on this boat- 
hook; and it's hard ground down below — listen!" 
He sent the boathook down through the water again 
till the end struck heavily on the bottom, and sent 
forth a dull, ringing sound. 

140 



The Motor-boat in Action 141 

As for the Commander, he drew the inevitable pipe 
from between his lips and looked inquisitively at Geoff 
and then at the boathook. 

*' Yes?" he asked. '' What then?" 

'* Might be useful," Geoff ventured. *' A couple of 
men dropped overboard could take cover at the edge 
of the island in amongst the reeds, and might help us 
immensely." • 

Commander Houston smiled an indulgent smile at 
him, and gripped him by the shoulder. 

"Well done, Keith!" he said in that sharp, com- 
manding tone of his. *'Take a man with you, and 
get a rifle. Quick with it! for those Turks will be 
clear of the island within a few minutes. Here, 
Smith! You're one of my best shots. Overboard 
with you!" 

There were spare rifles lying in the open cabin of 
the motor-boat, and beside them clips of cartridges. 
Geoff instantly seized one of the weapons, and filled 
a pocket with ammunition ; then he dropped over- 
board, while the man w^ho had been called joined him 
within half a minute with a grin of expectation, while 
on the faces of his comrades there was a look almost 
of envy. 

*'Come!" said Geoff, wading through the water 
and finding the ground at the bottom as he had 
expected — hard, and giving firm foothold. 

Indeed, it would appear that the wide swamps they 
were now traversing, and which seemed to be com- 
posed of practically stagnant water, were stirred and 
swept now and again by eddies from the main stream. 
Perhaps in those violent gales, which every now and 
again sweep across Mesopotamia, the waters from the 



142 On the Road to Bagdad 

Euphrates are driven into the marsh lands, and, in- 
stead of flowing slowly and almost imperceptibly 
across them, filtering through them, as it were, they 
rush and sweep through every channel, heaping 
islands of mud here and there where there happen 
to be eddies, and carrying on vast accumulations of 
ooze and slime to other quarters. No doubt, too, in 
dry seasons, when the Sh^t-el-Arab has fallen con- 
siderably, and the depth of the water in the main 
stream is much reduced, the waste of water lying at 
such a time across these marsh lands drains away, 
leaving a glistening, sandy desert. In any case, there 
was good going at this spot, and Geoff and his com- 
rade made the most of it. 

Wading up beside the island, they advanced, within 
a couple of minutes, some yards towards the upper 
end, to which the Turkish launch was fast approach- 
ing. 

''In here," said Geoff, seeing an opening between 
some reeds where the bank jutted out a little and 
formed an angle or depression. " Now cut some of 
the reeds away with your knife, so as to give you a 
good field of fire and clear vision." 

" Make ready!" they heard the Commander call to 
them gently, just after they had got into position, 
and, turning to look at the motor- boat, they saw 
that she had moved farther out from the island, and 
was now lying end-on, her bows presented to the spot 
where the enemy was to be expected. 

Almost at the same instant, the shriek of a steam 
siren came from the far distance — from that big 
Turkish steamer which had so unexpectedly opposed 
the advance of this British party on the River Eu- 



The Motor-boat in Action 143 

phrates, and, following it, an answering shriek, more 
piercing in its intensity, from the steam-launch drift- 
ing but a few yards away from them. Then her bows 
appeared, to be followed in a little while by her funnel, 
and then by the whole length of her. There was foam 
at her stern, while smoke was blowing out from the 
top of her funnel, for she was under way again, and, 
indeed, was steering a course towards another island 
which dotted the marshes in the distance. Perched 
on a raised portion of the deck, just in front of her 
funnel, was a Turkish officer, shouting loud com- 
mands; while on the deck for'ard of him were gathered 
some twenty or more soldiers, all eager and expectant; 
yet, as it happened, their gaze was fixed on the distant 
island, and not upon the water beyond that from 
behind which they were just emerging. Thus it 
followed that more than a minute passed before one 
of them noticed the motor-boat stealing gently, bow 
on, towards them. The man started and shouted, 
lifting his rifle high over his head. 

"Look!" he shouted, so suddenly, and in such a 
voice of alarm, that the officer was startled. Swinging 
round, he too saw the motor-boat, and himself took 
up the shout with a vengeance. 

"The enemy! Swing the ship round! Fire into 
them!" he bellowed. 

"Steady lads!" cried Commander Houston, stand- 
ing erect in his cabin. " Marsden, stop her! Now, 
boys, let 'em have it!" 

A volley burst from the weapons of the sailors in 
the motor-boat, and several of the Turks fell from 
the steam-launch and splashed into the water. By 
that time bullets were sweeping about the head of the 



144 On the Road to Bagdad 

Commander, while not a few struck the sides of the 
motor-boat or the surface of the water near at hand, 
throwing" up spray which swept over the heads of 
those who manned her. But not a man flinched; 
while Commander Houston, snatching" his pipe from 
between his teeth, roared encouragement at the sailors. 

''Let 'em have it!" he cried. ''Now, Keith," he 
bellowed, swinging round to our hero, "put in your 
bullets as fast as you are able. Ah ! That has dropped 
their officer. Just keep your eye on the man at the 
wheel, and the man who's running the engine, for 
we can't afford to allow that boat to get away from 
us." 

His teeth had gritted on the stem of his pipe a few 
seconds earlier, and, unseen by his men, the Com- 
mander clapped a hand to one shoulder. Perhaps it 
was a minute later that he wiped blood from his lips 
with his handkerchief, and then, like the old "sea- 
dog" he was, thrust his pipe back into his mouth and 
went on smoking, still careless of the bullets humming 
about him, his eyes fixed all the while upon the 
enemy. 

As for Geoff and the man with him, they were able 
to make excellent shooting from the point of advantage 
where they had taken cover. Seeing the Turkish 
officer level his revolver at the Commander, and pull 
his trigger — a shot which caused the Commander to 
act as already narrated — Geoff levelled his own piece 
on him, and gently pressed the trigger, sending the 
Turkish officer in amongst his soldiers. Then Smith, 
the watchful sailor beside him, grim and silent and 
stern now, picked off the man at the wheel of the 
steam-launch, while Geoff transferred his attention to 






-^\-- 
f 



v 



K 









"GEOFF LEVELLED HIS OWN PIECE OX HIM 



The Motor-boat in Action 145 

the Turk whose head bobbed up and down above the 
engine. 

Perhaps two minutes had passed since the first 
exchange of shots, two busy minutes, during which 
more than half of the crew of the Turkish launch had 
been killed or wounded, v/hile as yet, but for a slight 
wound here and there, not one of the British sailors 
had been damaged. And now a figure suddenly took 
the place of the Turkish officer. 

" An under officer," shouted the Commander, *Mook 
out for him!" 

*'He is giving orders for the steam-launch to get 
under way again," cried Geoff — for at the first dis- 
charge the engine aboard the enemy vessel had been 
stopped. ^'Come along. Smith, we'll wade out to 
her and stop any sort of movement." 

Floundering out from behind the cover he had 
selected, and with his rifle held well above the water, 
Geoff led the way direct to the enemy vessel, while a 
well-timed shot from the motor-boat sent the under- 
officer in amongst his fallen comrades. Then the 
engine aboard Commander Houston's little vessel 
began to thud, while the water behind her was 
churned, and as the screw got into operation she darted 
forward towards the steam-launch, the rifles of her 
crew spitting bullets still at the Turks who remained 
in evidence. Then, at a shout from the Commander, 
the fusillade ceased absolutely, though the motor-boat 
still pushed on towards the enemy. 

''Cease fire!" bellowed the Commander; ''they 

have surrendered ; see that man holding his hands up 

towards us." 

Taken by surprise as the Turks were, and broken 
(C834) 10 



146 On the Road to Bagdad 

indeed by the first volley, it was not extraordinary 
that this little British force had at the very commence- 
ment the best of the argument. The raking volley 
which they had poured into the enemy had thrown 
them into instant confusion, while the shots which 
Geoff and the man Smith, who went with him, had 
fired, had contributed not a little to the success of the 
operation ; and now, with her deck covered with 
wounded or dead, the launch surrendered; a soldier, 
a huge, well-grown Turk, standing there amongst his 
comrades, with both arms held over head, and calling 
to the British to spare them. By then Geoff was 
within a few yards of the launch, and, staggering on, 
clambered aboard her. A glance into the open engine- 
room showed him a man cowering there, the one 
whose head he had seen bobbing above the side of 
the vessel a few moments earlier. 

^^Come out!" he commanded briskly. '^No, you 
won't be shot, and don't fear it, for you've been cap- 
tured by British sailors. Smith, get hold of that 
wheel. Now let every man who has escaped injury 
' fall in ' on the deck, so that you may be counted." 

A hail reached him a moment later from the motor- 
boat, and, turning for a second, and so taking his eyes 
from the Turks now mustering on the deck quite close 
to him, he saw Philip waving frantically to him ; but 
of the Commander there was not a sign, for indeed 
that gallant individual was reclining in the depths of 
his cabin. 

** Geoff, ahoy!" he heard. '^I'm coming up close 
to you. Commander Houston's wounded." 

'* Stop!" Geoff shouted back at him. ^' Back your 
boat in behind the island, where I'll join you. Smith, 



The Motor-boat in Action 147 

can you see any sign of that Turkish boat we met in 
the river?" 

There was half a minute's pause before he received 
an answer, and then the fine fellow he had posted at 
the wheel called gently to him. 

^' Not a sign, sir," he said; ^' those islands yonder, 
through which we came on our way here, hide the 
channel of the river. She's out of sight, and can't see 
us either, though there's no doubt that she's within 
fairly close distance." 

*^ Which means that she will have heard the firing. 
Hum!" thought Geoff, as he swept his eyes round the 
waste of waters and wondered what would happen. 
Then he called to the Turk who had been manning the 
launch engine. 

** Get down to your engine again," he commanded, 
*'and give her a little steam. Smith, swing her round 
behind the island. We'll lie up there with the motor- 
boat for a while, and see to the Commander, and repair 
damages." 

The minutes which followed were busy ones indeed, 
for, as may be imagined, there was much to be done 
after such a brisk little encounter. Swinging the 
launch round, while the Turk gave the engine steam. 
Smith steered her in till she was quite close to the 
island ; then the motor-boat came alongside her, and 
the two vessels were moored there, the crew of the 
British vessel taking ropes ashore, and their own 
and the launch's anchor. 

^^I'm not a sailor," Geoff told the men aboard the 
motor-boat, when at last they were secured to the 
island, *^so I'll leave it to the senior amongst you to 
look to your damages. You've got some shot-holes 



148 On the Road to Bagdad 

about your hull, I'm sure, for I heard the bullets 
strike, and I can see water spurting in in more than 
one direction. Just post four men up on to the deck 
of the launch to look after our prisoners, and let one 
man make his way through the reeds of the island to 
the far side to keep watch for the arrival of more 
enemies. Now, Philip, give a hand and let us look 
to the Commander.'* 

Leaping down into the cabin, they found Com- 
mander Houston lying full length upon the floor, his 
face wonderfully changed from that to which they had 
become accustomed. Instead of displaying a ruddy 
countenance, and cheeks which glowed with health 
and vigour, there was now a deathly pallor upon the 
merry face of their friend, which seemed to have 
shrunken and grown smaller. But if the gallant 
sailor had suffered an injury, as indeed he had with- 
out a doubt, and if he were placed hors de coynhat by 
it, there was yet no loss of spirit, no lack of joviality; 
indeed the same happy smile wreathed the pallid face 
of this most gallant fellow, while he was still actually 
making a pretence of smoking. 

**A nice brisk little affair; eh, boys?" he said 
weakly, in tones which evidently astonished and dis- 
gusted himself, for he apologized for them. '' Don't 
take any notice of my voice," he told them; 'Mt's 
nothing, believe me ; merely a shot through my chest, 
for which I have to thank that Turkish Commander. 
A mere trifle, I assure you," he went on, and then 
coughed violently, while blood dribbled from the 
corner of his mouth. 

He shut his eyes, and, in the midst of calling to 
them again, fell backwards heavily, leaving both 



The Motor-boat in Action 149 

Geoff and Philip dismayed at his appearance. Spring- 
ing forward, Phil lifted his head and supported the 
Commander against his knee, while Geoff rapidly un- 
did his tunic, and, seeing clearly from the stain upon 
it where the wound must be, tore the shirt open. But 
what to do further was the question with him, for, 
though our hero may have had some experience already 
of travelling, and had undoubtedly seen rather more 
of foreign places than is the lot of most young fellows, 
yet he was singularly ignorant of wounds, had seen 
few indeed, and had practically no training in minor 
surgery. But amongst the crew there was one who 
was quite an experienced old sailor, who, had he cared 
to tell his tale, no doubt could have yarned to them 
of many a naval scrap in out-of-the-way places. It 
was the Cox who joined them now — a short, broad- 
shouldered, rather wizened fellow, with a cheerful 
smile always on his face, and with that brisk, respect- 
ful, helpful way about him so common to his counter- 
part, the non-commissioned officer, in the army. 

** You just hold on to him like that," he told Philip, 
who was supporting the Commander's head and 
shoulders. ** No," he added in a warning voice, '* no, 
I wouldn't let him lie down flat, sir, if I was you, 
'cause, you see, sir, he's hit through the lung, and 
he's bleeding internally. If you just think for a 
moment, sir, you'll see that that sort of thing is likely 
to drown a man, to swamp his lungs, as it were, and 
the more you can sit him up for a while the better. 
Hi, Marsden," he called, ^Met's have that surgical 
pannier!" 

If Geoff and his chum were entirely ignorant of 
wounds beyond what knowledge was required to place 



150 On the Road to Bagdad 

a first field dressing in position — and that was a task 
which every officer and man learned as a matter of 
course — the Cox was, on the other hand, quite a 
respectable surgeon. While Philip held the Com- 
mander's heavy frame up, the broad-shouldered little 
sailor cut away his tunic and shirt, and, having ex- 
posed the wound both at the front and at the back — 
for the bullet had passed right through the body — 
he swiftly dabbed each wound with his brush loaded 
with iodine, and then clapped on a dressing. 

"Next thing is to bandage him up so as to leave 
the other side of his chest free to move, and keep this 
side just as still as possible," he told Geoff; ''that 
will give the damaged arteries and veins a chance 
to heal and stop bleeding. Beg pardon, sir, but if 
you'd hold the box of dressings I can help myself 
easier." 

With dexterous hands — hands which were as gentle 
as might be, in spite of this sailor's rough calling — 
the Cox rapidly secured the dressings with a roller 
bandage. Meanwhile, at a call from Geoff, the cabin 
cushions had been laid on the boards at the bottom of 
the cabin, and on this improvised bed the Commander 
was now laid, his head well propped up with cushions. 

''And we'll just roll him over on to his damaged 
side, like that," the Cox told them. "That means 
that, as he breathes, that side won't move, and can't 
move overmuch, while the other one will be doing all 
the work for him. He is opening his eyes, I do 
declare! Why! " 

Two penetrating and rather fierce optics were fixed 
on the trio in the cabin at that moment, while the 
Commander struggled to move. Then the eyes 



The Motor-boat in Action 151 

opened quite widely, the lips curved, and in a second 
or two he was smiling serenely. 

*' So the Cox is practising on me all that IVe taught 
him, eh?" he asked, and Geoff noted with relief that 
the voice was stronger and steadier. *'I knew it 
would come to that some day; I kind of guessed it. 
Well, Cox, what's the verdict? What's the diagnosis? 
Is it a cure this time, or has that Turkish officer put in 
a shot likely to deprive His Britannic Majesty of a 
somewhat valuable officer? Ahem!" 

The gentle cough he gave brought another driblet 
of blood to the corner of his lips, and caused Geoff to 
kneel down beside the Commander and expostulate 
with him. 

*' Really, sir," he said, **you must keep quiet and 
stop talking. You " 

The eyes of the old sea-dog who had seized so 
greatly upon the fancy of Geoff and his chum, opened 
widely again, and that same expansive, warm-hearted 
grin was turned upon them. 

''Oh! oh!" he exclaimed; and, there was no doubt 
about it now, his voice was growing steadily stronger. 
**So our young officers wait until their senior is 
knocked out, and then start bullying and ordering! 
Oh! So that's the game, is it, Keith? You are 
beginning to show up in your true colours ! Believe 
me, my lads, I'm not nearly so bad as you imagine, 
and, 'pon my word, in a little while I shall be fit to 
get up and start smoking." 

Then he laughed, or, to speak the truth, cackled, 
for the effort of real laughter was beyond him, while 
he glanced quizzically at Geoff as that young officer 
coloured furiously. Yet, though he knew that the 



152 On the Road to Bagdad 

Commander was making fun of him, he was delighted 
at his progress, and a moment later was joining in 
the merriment. 

**Come now," said the Commander, a little later, 
''tell me all about the thing. You had just knocked 
that Turkish officer out, and a huge Turk was lifting 
his hands in token of surrender. I don't seem to re- 
member anything after that; I must have tumbled 
backwards into this cabin. And now that you have 
laid me on the floor, there's no seeing anything but 
the sky above me. Where are we? Where's the 
Turkish launch? What happened? And, of course, 
we captured the beggars!" 

Very quickly Geoff told him precisely what had re- 
sulted from their attack upon the Turkish launch, and 
how they had captured the vessel, and what remained 
of her crew. 

''We are lying to, behind the island, at this 
moment, sir," he added, "for by doing so we are 
hidden from the enemy. I thought it best to repair 
damages." 

"Yes, yes! Human and material," smiled the 
Commander, who was ever on the look-out for some 
little joke. " But wait! I may not be the only one 
wounded. What's the report from my fellows?" 

Philip had already obtained it, and at once com- 
municated the facts to Commander Houston. 

" One man hit through the fleshy part of his arm, 
and only slightly incapacitated; another has lost the 
tip of one finger. That's all the human part about it, 
sir," he said, with a grin. "As for the material; 
there are half a dozen holes bored through your 
motor-launch, and I believe the Cox has already 



The Motor-boat in Action 153 

made a cure by means of filching material from the 
box containing surgical dressings." 

'* Good ! We have come through that little business 
splendidly," said the Commander. " And now, what 
next?" he asked, fixing his eyes on Geoff and then 
swinging them round to Philip. '* What next? You 
have captured the launch " 

"We!" expostulated Geoff. "You were in com- 
mand, sir, don't forget that! And by the time you 
fell their resistance was almost finished." 

"Then Sve' — we have captured the launch, and 
that, you will remember, was a point I laid stress on. 
Then?" asked Commander Houston, peering into 
GeofPs face. "Did it occur to you, young Keith, 
that " 

Geoff smiled at the wounded Commander, and seated 
himself opposite to him. 

" I think the same idea occurred to me, sir," he said, 
"and perhaps somewhere about the same moment. 
You see, the Turks aboard that steamer, the fellows 
who fired that gun at us, know now well enough 
that the British have sent a motor-boat up the River 
Euphrates, and a motor-boat is a thing they will be 
hunting for. But a steam-launch, one of their very 
own, manned by a Turkish officer and Turkish soldiers, 
would have a chance to pass up the river right under 
their noses. In command of a boat like that, a fellow 
might find out a great deal more than if still aboard 
this motor-boat. So I thought that if we were lucky 
enough to capture the launch we might send off a 
party on her." 

" Showing that wise heads think in the same direc- 
tion," the Commander laughed a second later, though 



154 On the Road to Bagdad 

his eyes were twinkling with excitement. *' Confound 
this wound! But for that, I can tell you, I should 
have commanded this second expedition. The scheme 
is just one that is likely to succeed, and, as you say, 
Keith, has better chances than we should have, now 
that the Turks have dropped upon us. Being- wounded 
myself, of course, I shall have to give way to another, 
and it looks to me as though our friend the Cox 
would have to command this little expedition." 

You could have knocked Philip and Geoff down 
with the proverbial feather. Their faces, which had 
been smiling before and lit up with enthusiasm, 
suddenly lengthened, while they regarded the Com- 
mander with something akin to horror, if not positive 
anger. 

'' But," exploded Philip, " I— you— we " 

Commander Houston laughed again, laughed till 
he choked and coughed, and until Geoff begged of 
him to take things quietly. 

''I — you — we " he said at last, mimicking 

Philip. *'Well, well! I'll tease you no further. 
Of course, Keith will take charge of this little affair; 
and seeing that you, Denman, are, as it were, under 
his direct command, why, of course, he'll take you 
with him. For me, though I like to take things in the 
right way, and not make a fuss, I realize well enough 
that that Turkish officer has knocked me out com- 
pletely. Don't worry!" he went on. '^ I'm hit hard, 
I know, but it takes a precious deal to kill a man of 
my stamina; and, to tell you the truth, though I feel 
weak and rather knocked out for the moment, I'm very 
far from dying. But marsh lands and swamps, such 
as we lie in, are not good for wounds; and that being 



The Motor-boat in Action 155 

the ease, and since I should be a hindrance to the 
whole party, I shall 'bout ship and steam down to the 
Shatt-el-Arab. We know the route now, we shall 
have little to fear once we are away from this neigh- 
bourhood, and we can travel with a diminished crew. 
Keith, my boy, set about investigating the contents 
of our capture." 

Leaving the Commander in the cabin, and taking 
the precaution to haul a piece of sailcloth over the 
opening above so as to shelter him from the direct rays 
of the sun — which were now pouring down upon the 
marshes — Geoff and Philip stepped aboard the cap- 
tured launch, and made a thorough survey of her, dis- 
covering a quantity of rifles and ammunition, besides 
a supply of dates and coffee. In a cabin aft of the 
engine-room there were some tinned provisions, which 
no doubt had belonged to the officer. For the rest, 
there was sufficient fuel aboard to take the vessel a 
considerable distance, and, in fact, little was required 
to make her fit for service. 

** We could go off on her right away," Geoff told 
his chum, his voice exultant, ** for there is food enough 
on board to feed you, and me, and the crew we shall 
require to man her. As to water, we can get that from 
the boiler at any time, and so need have little fear of 
fever. I vote we ask the Commander to allow us a 
certain supply of provisions and ammunition for the 
men we take with us. As to the number of the latter, 
of course, he will decide upon it; but the sooner we 
select our men the better, for they must discard their 
present clothing and dress up in the uniforms of the 
Turkish soldiers." 

When they came to the point of selecting the half- 



156 On the Road to Bagdad 

dozen men that the Commander decided to allot them, 
Geoff found that he was face to face with an unexpected 
difficulty. For, calling the sailors about him on the 
deck of the Turkish launch — as he wished to leave 
the Commander quietly resting — he had barely opened 
his mouth sufficiently to explain what was about to 
happen, and to call for volunteers, when every man 
of the party stepped forward. More than that, there 
was an insinuating smile on the faces of all, without 
exception, the sort of smile a man indulges in when 
he wishes to ask a favour. It was a kind of dilemma 
which an older man than Geoff, and one far more 
experienced, would have dealt with at once, though 
not without difficulty; but Geoff, we admit the fact, 
was utterly confounded. 

*'But," he stuttered, ^^ I — don't you know — I — 
well, that is, I only want six of you, so what's the good 
of all of you volunteering?" 

'' That's just it, sir," the Cox explained. *' There's 
not a single man jack here who don't want to be one 
of the party. Beg pardon, sir," he added, a moment 
later, seeing that Geoff was puzzled and perplexed, 
** if you was to leave it to us we'd soon fix the business. 
We'd draw lots, and then not a single one of the men 
could feel that he was out of favour. The lucky ones 
would be envied, that's all, and the rest of 'em would 
go back with the Commander as pleasant as possible." 

Within a few minutes, as a matter of fact, the whole 
matter had been amicably settled ; and thereafter Geoff 
and Philip were busily engaged in dressing the men 
they were to take with them, securing for that purpose 
the clothing of Turks who had fallen during the con- 
flict. Then, about an hour before dusk fell, they set off 



The Motor-boat in Action 157 

from the place where they had been lying behind the 
island, the Turkish engineer still manning his engine, 
while one of their own men was at the wheel. Philip 
was right for'ard, quite a fierce-looking Turk in his 
dirty khaki uniform and fez head-covering. As for 
Geoff, he sat on the little platform just in front of the 
funnel, and no one taking even the closest look at 
him would have suspected him of being a British 
officer. A moment before, he had gripped the Com- 
mander's hand and had received a cheery send-off 
from him. Then smoke gushed from the funnel, the 
Turkish engineer pulled gently at his throttle, and the 
screw of the steam-launch began to churn the water. 
Signals were exchanged between those seeming Tur- 
kish soldiers on the deck of the launch and the British 
sailors still remaining on board the motor-vessel. 
Then the launch gained the far end of the island, and, 
swinging round it, disappeared, the last glance which 
Geoff cast over his shoulder showing him a number 
of disconsolate individuals watching their departure, 
while, seated aft on the motor-vessel, were the nine or 
ten prisoners whom they had captured. Stealing 
silently across a wide stretch of swamp, and answering 
cheerily a signal flung out from the bigger Turkish 
steamer somewhere away on the river, the launch was 
headed to the left until she gained a group of islands. 
*' In here. Excellency," said the native, who, natu- 
rally enough, formed one of the party. ''There's a 
channel amongst those islands which I have followed, 
and which will take us up within half a mile of the 
river stream, yet hidden from it. Let the man drive 
the boat faster while there is nothing here to impede 
us." 



i5« On the Road to Bagdad 

As darkness fell that night, the launch was tearing 
along through the stagnant water, flinging a bow 
wave on to the islands which cropped up, now to 
the right and now to the left of her. Sometimes her 
steersman was forced to make her swerve somewhat 
violently, to avoid an obstruction consisting of ooze 
and mud and covered with thick-growing reeds, but 
for the most part her course was directly forward, and 
parallel to the river. At length, as darkness fell, the 
engines were stopped, and the boat was brought to 
a halt between two islands. There the anchor was 
dropped, and the litde force made ready to spend the 
night and to prepare for an eventful to-morrow. 



CHAPTER IX 

A Cutting-out Expedition 

*' What's that? Listen! I heard something!" 

Geoff cocked his head up over the side of the cabin 
in which he and Philip had been partaking of their 
evening meal, and turned his face towards the River 
Euphrates, across the waste of ooze and mud and 
water which separated their captured launch from it — 
a waste hidden by the darkness, and yet illuminated 
ever so faintly by a crescent of the moon, which was 
already floating above them, while stars peppered 
the sky in every direction, and helped to make things 
visible. Across the waste of water, dulled by the 
whisper of the evening breeze as it rustled through 
the reeds and osiers, a sound had come to Geoff's 
ears, a sound which caused him to enjoin silence 
upon all aboard the steam-launch. Then, as he 
listened, there came to his ears, at first faintly only, 
but growing steadily yet gradually louder, the plug, 
plug of the paddles of a river steamer. 

*'The Turk who had the cheek to fire that shot at 
us!" exclaimed Philip. '' Listen to him! He's going 
up the river, and I dare say he's wondering what's 
happened to his launch, and whether he'll find that 
rather nice and comfortable little vessel waiting for 
him up-stream. Eh, Geoff?" 

159 



i6o On the Road to Bagdad 

*' Listen! The paddles are going slower, and it 
sounds to me as if the steamer was going to pull up 
for the night. You must remember that the Euphrates 
isn't the sort of river that one cares to steam up at 
any kind of pace during the hours of darkness, for by 
all accounts it's stuffed full of sand-banks and muddy 
islands, which are always changing, 'specially after 
rains and storms. There's a voice," Geoff went on; 
''that's someone giving an order! And now the 
paddles have ceased altogether." 

"Plunk! There goes her anchor. She's come to 
a roost without a doubt!" ejaculated Philip. "That's 
rummy, ain't it? Our Turkish friends will be settling 
down for their evening meal — or whatever sort of 
thing they have — within sound of us, and, I'll lay 
my hat, without suspecting that their precious steam- 
launch is within easy reach of them." 

Geoff stretched out a hand in the semi-darkness and 
gripped his chum by the shoulder. 

"Splendid!" he said. 

"Eh?" asked the other, a little bewildered. "What's 
splendid? Having the Turks so close to us? ' Not 
'arf, as 'Tommy' is fond of saying. Why, we shall 
have to lie as quiet as mice here, and the next thing 
you'll be doing will be to order us to cease smoking, 
for fear the light of our pipes should be seen aboard the 
steamer. Most inconsiderate of that Turk, I call it! 
For he might at least have stopped down the river, or 
gone a little higher, so that we might have passed a 
peaceful night, and made ready for all sorts of things 
to-morrow. 'Splendid!' Hum! Sorry I can't agree 
with you, my dear fellow." 

If he could only have guessed what was in Geoff's 



A Cutting-out Expedition i6i 

mind at the moment, and could have seen that young 
fellow quite clearly, Philip might easily have given 
expression to quite different opinions. For, to be 
precise, our young hero, dressed in the uniform of a 
Turkish officer, and with a Turkish fez perched on his 
head, was as near the actual thing as could well be 
imagined. In daylight, in the city of Bagdad, and, 
for that matter, in any other city, he might very well 
have passed muster; while the fact that he was able 
to speak the language fluently — as fluently as any 
native — made his disguise all the better; and now, 
with some idea in his head to which Philip was a 
stranger, there occurred to Geoff the thought that the 
coming of this steamer to such close quarters pre- 
sented a splendid opportunity. He shook his chum 
savagely, so as to silence him. 

**You don't let a fellow finish!" he exclaimed. 
*'But it's splendid, really splendid, that that steamer 
should have dropped her anchor within easy reach 
of us." 

** And why, pray?" asked Philip, rather inclined to 
banter with his senior officer. 

'*Why, being so near makes it all the easier for 
a fellow to get aboard her." 

*^A— bo~ardher!" 

Philip opened his mouth wide, and his eyes too, 
though that didn't help him to see his chum any the 
better. 

''Well — but — surely — you don't mean to Well, 

I'm hanged!" he exclaimed. ''And — of course — of 
course it's splendid, as you say — a splendid oppor- 
tunity. But you'll never think of going alone, eh, 
Geoff?" he asked, with a pleading note in his voice. 

(C834) 11 



i62 On the Road to Bagdad 

** Supposing a Turkish sentry caught hold of you? 
Supposing you got ' lagged ' immediately you were 
on board, what then? I " 

^* You would be required aboard this launch to take 
command of the expedition," Geoff told him curtly. 
"But let's be serious, Phil. We're out to learn all 
we can of the Turks, and, as you know, it's been 
reported that the enemy are gathering somewhere up 
the River Euphrates, behind or in this long stretch of 
marsh land. We might push up the river in the 
early morning and discover them. We might barge 
into the very midst of them, and find ourselves sur- 
rounded, with no chance of getting away and carry- 
ing our information to Head-quarters. But what we 
want to know is known aboard that steamer. The 
officer in command is nearly sure to be of superior 
rank, and in any case he must know where the Turks 
are assembling." 

''And so," argued Phil, as he bit at a cigarette, 
"and so, my boy, you've designs on the steamer. 
'Pon my word! I wish I was able to speak the lingo. 
Languages are things I've always hated; but I can 
see what advantages they give to a fellow, what fun 
they bring him, and — ahem ! — what chances of pro- 
motion. So you'll go aboard? Wish the dickens I 
could come with you." 

" I shall go aboard and find out the whereabouts of 
this officer." 

" And then you'll listen to his conversation through 
the keyhole if need be," said Philip, whose buoyant 
spirits always made him seize upon the smallest 
opportunity of being facetious. "Keyhole, eh? Won- 
der if Turks have 'em? Anyway, you'll contrive to 



A Cutting-out Expedition 163 

find a spot from which you can hear the old bounder; 
and then, of course, the business will be to make him 
converse upon the subject upon which you are most 
interested. That's a teaser, eh? How will you do 
it? Supposing he's immersed in an argument about 
the war, and about the rights and wrongs of the 
Turks and the Germans; or supposing he's only 
telling his under-officer — for I suppose there is such 
an individual — all about his home life, his wife and 
his children, his house and his garden. Supposing, 
in fact, he won't get on to your line of argument, and 
won't babble about the Turks and their concentration 
in the marshes." 

Hum! It certainly was a teaser, and the situation 
as Philip drew it had not occurred to Geoff before. 
That it was possible to reach the steamer in the tiny 
dinghy carried aboard the launch, and to clamber 
unseen aboard her, he did not doubt; that he might, 
by skill and cheek, contrive thereafter to get within 
sight and sound of the Commander, he thought was 
within the bounds of possibility; but to make that 
Commander talk, to make him give the information 
which Geoff sought, was an entirely different matter 
altogether. 

" By George!" he exclaimed; ''that would be awk- 
ward." 

''It would," Philip told him in tones of irony. 
"You're aboard the steamer, you've — not actually, 
but let us say metaphorically — sat down in the cabin 
occupied by this old bounder, and then he won't talk, 
you can't make him talk; he's glum, we'll say; he's 
agitated about the loss of the steam-launch; he can't 
make up his mind what all that firing meant, and 



i64 On the Road to Bagdad 

where his twenty-odd soldiers and the two officers 
who commanded them have got to. In fact, he's in 
the dickens of a stew, in a beastly temper, smoking 
a cigar, and won't say 'nothink'." 

*' Oh, shut up!" Geoff told him angrily. 

'' Like the Turkish captain, in fact," Philip laughed. 
*' But, seriously, just as you said a moment ago, seri- 
ously, what's to be done? You know the old adage: 
' You can take a horse to the water, but no amount of 
kicks or coaxing will make him drink'; well, this old 
Turk may be just like that obstinate old horse. He's 
there, aboard his steamer, and nothing will make him 
talk, not even " 

*' Stop!" commanded Geoff abruptly. '' ' Nothing 
will make him talk,' you say? Won't it? I mean to 
get information out of the old beggar — for I presume 
he is old— but don't forget that neither of us have seen 
him yet, so he may be young and active. All the 
same, I am going aboard now, and, of course, if I 
don't come back within reasonable time you will have 
cause to believe that I have been captured. Then the 
command of the expedition devolves upon you, and it 
is for you to carry out the work entrusted to us. Just 
launch that dinghy, quietly, my lads," he called over 
the front of the cabin, **and see that there's a paddle 
in her." 

Geoff began to grope in the cabin of the steam- 
launch, till his hand presently lit upon the pannier 
containing dressings, which had been handed over to 
them by the gallant Commander, whom they had left 
wounded aboard the motor-boat. 

** You may want it, lads," he had told them. ''There 
is never any saying when you may come up against 



A Cutting-out Expedition 165 

the Turks, and, having had one brisk little engagement 
with them, you may have another, and, of course, 
may very well have some of the crew wounded. Of 
course, I hope that that won't be the case, but you 
never know your luck. For that reason we'll divide 
up the dressings, I taking sufficient for my own pur- 
poses while you take enough for yours." 

*'Got it!" exclaimed Geoff, as his hand lit upon 
the pannier. "Now for a pad of cotton-wool and 
a couple of bandages." 

''Eh!" asked Philip curiously; '' 'Couple of band- 
ages,' 'cotton-wool' — you're going aboard a steamer, 
now what in the name of the dickens is that for?" 

Geoff didn't tell him to mind his own business, for 
he was far too polite a young fellow to give such an 
answer, neither did he speak to his inquisitive chum 
gruffly even ; instead, he maintained silence, whilst he 
carefully picked out the bandages and the pad of 
cotton-wool. Then Phil suddenly gripped him by the 
shoulder. 

" I've got it!" he exclaimed. 

" Got what?" asked Geoff curtly. 

"Got it, of course," came the answer; "the band- 
ages and the pad of cotton-wool ; the idea, my dear 
boy, the very smart and brilliant brain-wave that's 
come to you. You're going to " 

"What?" 

"What! Why of course the brain wave," Philip 
told him hotly. "I've guessed your idea; you're 
going to get aboard that steamer, and just because 
that old bounder of a Turk " 

"What old bounder of a Turk? The Captain?" 
asked Geoff. " He isn't old. At least, how do we 



i66 On the Road to Bagdad 

know that he's old? He may be young, middle-aged, 
bald-headed and toothless." 

The two of them were getting quite angry, and for 
a moment or two it looked as though the wordy war- 
fare in which they were beginning to be engaged 
would develop into quite a battle. Then Geoff giggled 
— an excited little giggle — while Phil joined his chum 
heartily, and brought one hand down with a thump 
on the broad of his back. 

"Jingo!" he exclaimed. "You're right, of course 
we don't know whether the old bounder is young or 
old, or even toothless ; but we do know that there's a 
captain or an officer in charge of that steamer, and, 
what's more, we know, what you want and didn't tell 
me, that we're going to capture him." 

"We're going to!" exclaimed Geoff. "I thought 
I'd already said, as the officer commanding this expe- 
dition " 

" Ahem !" coughed Philip. " Certainly, sir, you did 
say that," he said in his most demure manner. " But 
the job, if you'll allow me to say so, is rather a big 
one — in short, and in fact, it's a ' tough nut ' you pro- 
pose to crack, and in cracking it you're just as likely 
to come to grief yourself, and possibly to have your 
head cracked. Indeed, as your immediate junior, as 
one anxious for the success of this most important 
expedition, it becomes my duty to point out that failure 
on your part, failure because you have gone into the 
matter without sufficient forces at your command, will 
lead inevitably to the ghastly failure of the whole ex- 
pedition. Once the alarm is given, once there is no 
longer the chance of a surprise, in fact, once the 
Turks are on the qui vive, and know what we are up 



A Cutting-out Expedition 167 

to, the game's up, and we've lost! Nice to have to 
return to the camp on the Shatt-el-Arab, and tell 'em 
that we've been a hideous failure!" 

He was piling it on with a vengeance, was Philip, 
but then he was an artful, if light-hearted and jovial 
fellow, and here he had a most distinct object in view. 
He plucked Geoff eagerly by the sleeve. 

"Rotten, that!" he told him. "Just fancy what 
the fellows would say! They'd not forget to tell us 
all about it, and make nasty remarks about chaps with 
swollen heads who'd gone up the river on their own, 
thinking to do a heap, and returning without carrying 
out their object, or even nearly completing it. See?" 
he asked Geoff, with decided emphasis, and repeated 
his demand as a movement of his chum seemed to 
denote some signs of giving way. "Just think it 
over, Geoff! You go aboard the steamer and creep 
along the deck till you come to the Captain's cabin. 
Don't forget that you want the bounder to talk about 
the Turks and their position, and just remember what 
I said when I suggested that he'd talk on any and 
every subject rather than that. Well, aboard the 
steamer you can't make him answer your questions, 
or launch out into an explanation of the Turkish plans 
of campaign; so you decide to kidnap him, and have 
the idea of plugging his mouth with that cotton-wool, 
and winding a bandage about his head. Very pretty! 
Awfully nice if the thing works! But will it? Sup- 
posing he shouts before you plug his toothless mouth 
— he was toothless I think we agreed — supposing 
he's not alone, what then? You're done! Your plan's 
defeated. You might just as well have stayed aboard 
this launch and rested. But " 



i68 On the Road to Bagdad 

^* But if Phil — the eager Phil — happened to be close at 
hand, ready to brain the other fellow. Ah !" exclaimed 
Geoff, and for the life of him he couldn't help laughing 
at the excitement and the eager pleading of his chum. 

It made him laugh when he remembered how 
adroitly and how expertly Philip had worked round 
the question, had pointed out so very clearly the 
chances of failure, and then had come in at the end 
with the greatest arguments for his own inclusion in 
the adventure. Arguments which Geoff himself could 
not deny; for a friend at hand, a stanch friend, might 
very well turn the scales in his favour, and, after all, 
what a prize the Captain of that steamer would be, if 
they could only lay their hands on him. 

*^ Better far than the chief I bagged at the very 
beginning of the campaign," he told himself, though 
he spoke aloud. 

** Agreed!" said Philip. ^* I don't, of course, want 
to say that that wasn't quite a nice little business, but 
then, this is really * It', or will be if we bring it off. 
So I come, don't I?" 

'* You do. Your revolver's loaded, eh?" 

*' And ready," Phil said, **and the dinghy is along- 
side." 

*'Then come on." 

Leaving the oldest sailor in charge of the launch, 
with instructions to lie in that position till morning 
came, and then to look about for them, and to return 
down the Euphrates in the event of not discovering 
their officers, Geoff and Philip crept gingerly into the 
dinghy, which had been brought close alongside, 
having been launched from the deck of the little 
steamer where it was usually carried. 



A Cutting-out Expedition 169 

**Push off, "said Geoff, "and keep your ear open for a 
hail, for it'll be no easy job to find you in the darkness." 

**Aye, aye, sir," replied the man, "good luck to you." 

Geoff dipped his paddle in the water, and thrust 
hard with it, while Philip, seated in the stern, used 
a paddle as a rudder. Stealing along the narrow 
channel in which the steam launch lay, they soon 
rounded the end of one of the islands which formed it, 
and halted there for a while to allow their eyes to 
grow accustomed to the darkness. Then they turned 
sharp left, facing the direction in which the River 
Euphrates lay, and stole onward across the waste of 
waters, threading their way between muddy banks 
where the slime and ooze clung, and often diving 
under perfect archways of reeds, where the islands 
were close together. Once or twice they had to 
return on their tracks, finding their way obstructed, 
and on one occasion they bumped gently into an 
island, and stuck fast for a while, till Geoff came aft 
— thus tipping the bows of the dinghy upward and 
so loosening her. It was perhaps half an hour 
later that they felt, rather than saw, that they had 
gained the main stream, the wide expanse of smooth, 
almost motionless water, where eddies from the river 
sometimes stirred the surface, and where the flow, 
moderately rapid in the centre, was so retarded as to 
be almost imperceptible. 

"Straight across," whispered Geoff, "there are the 
lights of the steamer just up-river of us, so we'll cut 
across to the centre, where I reckon her to be lying, 
and then steal up behind her. Gently with your 
paddle, Phil, for a splash might attract the attention 
of a sentry and bring rifle-fire upon us." 



I70 On the Road to Bagdad 

Another ten minutes passed, during which they 
plunged their paddles gently though firmly into the 
stream, and forced the little boat steadily upward, and 
during that time the dull, dimly visible hull of the 
vessel lying out in mid-stream gradually grew bigger 
and bigger. At length they were right under her 
stern, and found that, though low-built in the centre, 
and indeed generally, she was yet well above their 
heads, so much so that the dinghy lay close to 
the rudder and practically under the stern of the 
vessel. It was just then that the end of a trailing 
rope struck Phil gently across the face, and, groping 
for it, he had soon seized upon it firmly. 

'* Haifa mo'!" he told Geoff. ''What's this? A 
rope, a rope to make our boat fast to. Now I call 
that particularly accommodating of this old party 
we've come to visit." 

''What, eh?" 

Geoff chuckled. It did him good to hear Philip's 
innocent banter, and showed him also at the same 
time what an excellent fellow he had to assist him. 

"Make fast," he whispered. "Give a good haul 
on it first, though, and if it's stout enough I'll make 
use of it to get aboard, though I imagine by getting 
on your back I could easily reach the rail, and so the 
deck of the steamer." 

A minute later they had secured the dinghy to the 
rope, and the wise Philip made fast the other end of 
it to a bolt-hole in the rudder, thus keeping their little 
boat right under the stern of the steamer, where she 
would remain unseen. Then Geoff gripped the rope 
which had been dangling over the rail, and, putting 
all his weight on it to test it, swung himself out of the 



A Cutting-out Expedition 171 

dinghy and clambered up till he could grasp the rail 
above. One strong heave and his face was above its 
level, and he was able to look along the deck of the 
steamer. Then very slowly he clambered upward, 
and slid on to the deck, where he crouched under the 
rail to watch and listen. 

Hark! There were voices somewhere. There was 
a light shining on the deck on either side, through 
what appeared to be the skylight of a cabin, while the 
voices, no doubt, came from that direction. But it 
was not that alone which Geoff had heard, it was 
something else — the gentle slap, slap of feet on the 
deck, the soft footfall of a man shod with sandals 
perhaps, or more likely entirely unshod, perhaps a 
barefooted sentry pacing the deck to and fro, turning 
when he had accomplished a dozen paces. Geoff 
peered into the darkness, hoping to see the man, but 
failed, though the sounds were still quite audible. 
Then he stole forward till quite close to the cabin's 
skylight, where he hid behind a mast in a dark corner 
between it and the bulkhead of the cabin. Yes, the 
sounds made by that sentry — for if not a sentry what 
else could he be? — were clearly audible, while the 
figure now came into view, feebly outlined it is true 
yet quite sufficient for Geoffs purpose. There was a 
Turk, perhaps a Turkish sailor, striding to and fro 
some twenty yards farther forward, turning about each 
time he reached the rail, striding this way and that 
like an automaton — as if indeed he were a clockwork 
figure, 

''Rather too near to be pleasant," thought Geoff, 
and the bother of it is that he makes it difficult for a 
fellow to peer into the cabin. Ah! one of these sky- 



172 On the Road to Bagdad 

lights is lifted. It's been a hot day, and I've no doubt 
it's stuffy down in the cabin. That's really very 
considerate of our friend, the Captain, as Phil would 
say. Yes, voices — Turkish voices — let's see what's 
happening." 

He went on all fours, and stole along beside the 
cabin's skylight till he came to the panel which was 
lifted. There was an opening, perhaps some six 
inches in width, through which the light was stream- 
ing, and also the voices of two men, at least, down 
in the cabin. But six inches is hardly sufficient space 
to admit a head, and Geoff at once increased the size 
of the opening by lifting the panel. 

'* Stop, there! Enough! It's cool enough below!" 
he heard someone exclaim an instant later. '* Idiot, 
leave the thing as it is now, and wait next time till 
you are told to make an alteration." 

By then Geoff was flat on the deck, listening to the 
voice so near to him, and watching that sentry, that 
automaton, as he moved to and fro; watching him and 
hoping that he would take no notice. Indeed, he 
need hardly have worried himself, for the man did 
not even deign to turn his head, but strolled on across 
his beat, his rifle now visible as it thrust upward 
above his shoulder. For the life of him Geoff could 
not help chuckling again, and repeating the words 
which Philip had used but a few minutes earlier. 

'* A most accommodating sentry," he said. *' If only 
he'll continue to march to and fro without looking 
this way it'll give me a chance of peeping into the 
cabin. Here goes! Oh! Three of 'em, eh! All 
officers, and, by George, the chief of 'em is bald- 
headed, or I'm a Dutchman!" 



A Cutting-out Expedition 173 

How Philip would have laughed had he been beside 
his chum and recollected their conversation aboard 
the steam-launch, for as Geoff peered down into the 
cabin, his head screened to a certain extent from the 
view of those below by the supports of the skylight, 
and by the swinging oil-lamp which illuminated the 
interior, his eyes fell upon three individuals — three 
Turkish officers — one of whom sat back in a chair in 
the most dilettante attitude, smoking a cigarette; a 
young man without doubt, handsome as the Turks 
go, but decidedly effeminate. Near him was another 
officer, rather older, with a handsomely curled mous- 
tache, who leaned both elbows on the cabin table and 
seemed to be already nodding. And opposite the 
two, lounging full length on a divan, was a stout 
broad-shouldered Pasha, a senior Turkish officer, 
whose fez now reposed on the floor, exposing a head 
which shone and glistened in the rays of the lamp- 
light. As to his being toothless, that was another 
matter, though the memory of what had passed be- 
tween himself and Philip, once again caused Geoff to 
give vent to a silent chuckle. 

^'And so you think, my dear comrade, that this 
firing on the part of the crew of the steam-launch re- 
sulted in the annihilation of a party of the British, 
eh?" the elderly Turkish officer was asking, whilst he 
waved a big, fat hand, upon which glistened many 
rings, in the direction of the young officer at the head 
of the table. 

'' I do. To-morrow they will return with a fine tale 
of their doings. You will discover, my chief, that 
you have been the means of stopping a reconnoi- 
tring-force of the enemy ascending the Euphrates. 



174 On the Road to Bagdad 

It will be good for you, good for me, good for us 
all." 

They lapsed into silence for a while and then 
started on some other topic. Indeed, though Geoff 
listened for the better part of quarter of an hour, not 
once did they broach the subject of Turkish troops, 
nor that of their position in these marsh lands about 
the Euphrates. It was clear, in fact, that to stay 
where he was, risking discovery at any moment, on 
the chance of such a question rising between the 
Turkish officers below him, was madness, and that 
some other scheme must be adopted to get at the 
mformation which he and Philip coveted. Lowering 
his head, therefore, and making sure that the sentry 
had not discerned him, Geoff crept on all fours across 
the deck, and, clambering over the rail, dropped 
gently into the boat. And there for a while he and 
his chum discussed the matter in low tones, making 
their plans so as to accomplish their purpose. 

It was half an hour later when Geoff led the way up 
over the rail again, followed by Philip, and the two 
crept for'ard along the deck of the steamer. 

*' There's the cabin," whispered Geoff, pointing to 
the skylight, *'and down below is the old boy we're 
bent on capturing. Just creep along and look in, 
then come back at once, for we've no time to waste, 
and must complete the business." 



CHAPTER X 

Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 

*'Lor', Geoff, you didn't tell me, you didn't say a 
word about it!" gasped, rather than whispered, the 
excited Philip, as he crawled back to our hero's side, 
having sprawled along the deck of the steamer and 
peeped into the cabin wherein were those three Turkish 
officers, the possession of one of whom the two young 
British officers so eagerly coveted. "What d'you 
mean by it?" 

*'Mean by it! By what? Shut up, you idiot, or 
that sentry will hear us!" 

" Hang the sentry!" came the whispered answer, as 
Philip lay down beside his chum and close under the 
rail of the vessel. "But, I say, what a joke! Just 
fancy our guessing so exactly. He's as old as they 
make 'em, the chap who commands this ship — an old, 
fat, and bloated bounder — and, Christopher! he's bald 
and as toothless as a baby." 

The fellow actually cackled, till Geoff pounced upon 
him and closed his mouth with his hand. 

"Shut up, you fool!" he exclaimed, in a fierce 
whisper. "You'll have every man aboard the ship 
upon us and will wreck our chances. I begin to wish 
that I hadn't brought you with me; but I thought 
that at least you had some sort of sense." 

175 



176 On the Road to Bagdad 

Philip sniggered. He knew that Geoff didn't really 
mean to be so fierce as he made out, or even so vindic- 
tive, and, after all, there seemed little chance of the 
sentry suspecting their presence or overhearing them. 
For, in the first place, though farther away amidst 
the marshes, an almost complete silence covered the 
waste of waters — broken only by the faint whisper of 
the evening breeze as it rustled amongst the reeds of 
the thousands of muddy islands — out here, in the centre 
of the stream, there was the swish and swirl of water as 
it flowed past the steel sides of the vessel, the lap of the 
current, and the whistle of the breeze as it swayed the 
cordage to and fro and hummed a gentle tune round 
the funnel, the steam whistle, and the other contri- 
vances hampering the deck of the steamer. And, 
secondly, there was the sentry himself, a mere doll he 
seemed, an automaton — as Geoff had thought — a man 
who marched barefooted, to and fro, to and fro, back- 
wards and forwards from one rail of the vessel to the 
other, never appearing to turn his head, never shifting 
the rifle which rested across one shoulder, apparently 
deaf to sounds, and oblivious to all that was taking 
place about him. Not that much could be said to be 
within his vision, for, be it remembered, darkness lay 
over the Euphrates and the adjacent marshes — dark- 
ness made a little less intense by that crescent of the 
moon which floated in the heavens, by the million 
brilliant stars with which they were peppered, and, to 
a lesser degree, in one particular part, by the feeble 
rays which struggled through the skylight of the 
cabin and fell gently on the deck of the vessel. 

Still, too much cackling on the part of the jovial 
Philip might easily have been fatal; and, besides, it 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 177 

was not a time for expressing one's feelings, for ribald 
laughter, or even for jests, and certainly one would 
have thought that even the recklessness of a junior 
British officer would have been suppressed by the 
occasion. Philip checked himself with a gulp. He 
was thinking of that bald head down below, and of 
the extraordinarily good guess which he and his chum 
had made as to the appearance of the Commander of 
this boat long before they had set eyes on him. Then, 
suddenly, the question of his capture filled his mind, 
to the obliteration of everything else. 

'' A big bounder!" he told Geoff. *' It'll want some 
doing. How?" 

Geoff gave vent to a subdued whistle, a mere puff 
of air from his lips, and then he nudged his comrade. 

'* See that sentry over there?" he asked abruptly. 

*^ Faintly. Not having quite the eyes of a cat, I 
can't say that I see him distinctly. What of him?" 

**Of him? Nothing. But you'll take his place 
within a minute." 

''Oh!" Philip exclaimed, and stared through the 
darkness at his chum. " Take his place in a minute? 
Certainly!" he said. "But — er — supposing he 
objects?" 

"That's his business," said Geoff, "and ours too, 
of course. I shall ask him in the politest way possible 
to step below; or, to be more precise, I propose now 
to march up to him as if I were one of those three 
officers down below in the cabin. If he doesn't obey 
the order I give him " 

"That's our business," said Phil, and he chuckled 
again. " I've got the whole scheme, Geoff", and you 
can fire ahead at once. I shall come along quite close 

(C834) 12 



178 On the Road to Bagdad 

behind you, and if the fellow wants to kick up a row, 
or doesn't like taking orders from a superior officer, 
I'll knock him overboard. You can leave that part of 
the business to me. I'm just itching to tackle a Turk, 
and to start the campaign in real earnest." 

^^Then come along!" Geoff told him. ''We'll 
creep along as far as the cabin, and peep in to make 
sure that those fellows below are not likely to be 
moving, and then I'll go for'ard and accost the sentry. 
Come along!" 

The two of them were already on their knees, 
crouching below the rail of the vessel, and at once 
crept forward till they were level with the cabin ; then, 
peering in, Geoff made out the figures of the three 
officers below, still in the same positions they had 
occupied before — the fat, bald-headed man, un- 
doubtedly the senior of the party, nodding on the 
divan, while the officer at the head of the table still 
smoked and still prattled to his neighbour. Then he 
nudged Philip, and, passing behind the skylight, stood 
at his full height, and stepped quickly along the deck 
towards the sentry, who still marched to and fro, to 
and fro, apparently without hearing his approach, as 
he paid no attention to it. Indeed, Geoff was within 
five yards of him before the man suddenly turned his 
head and noticed his coming, and just as suddenly 
came to a halt and grounded his weapon. 

"Who goes there?" he challenged, in quite low 
tones, and it was evident that he was not in the least 
concerned by Geoff's appearance. 

Indeed, he had been anticipating the exit of one 
officer, at least, from the cabin, where he knew that his 
betters were smoking and chatting, and no doubt the 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 179 

figure now coming towards him was one of them. 
Nor was Geoff in the least disconcerted; for, thanks to 
the dress he wore, to the fez which was perched on his 
head, and to his command of the language, he felt no 
doubt of being able to deceive the fellow. 

''Officer, going rounds," he answered to the 
challenge. " Dismiss, my man, and go to your 
quarters; the Commander feels that there is no need 
of a sentry while we lie right out here in the river, and, 
that being the case, there is no need for you to spoil 
a night's rest. Get down with you!" 

The man shouldered his rifle at once and turned as 
if to obey the order, and then, of a sudden, he swung 
round again, as if an idea had struck him, or as if he 
were suspicious. Indeed, there was something which 
had attracted his attention, a dark, shadowy some- 
thing which his eyes, hitherto seemingly so useless to 
him, had discovered following the officer who had just 
given him the order. It was the dark shadow of a 
man, creeping along close to the rail of the ship, as if 
prepared to spring upon the back of the officer. 

"Beware!" he cried. "There is a man behind 
you, one who sneaks along in the shadows." 

That shadow launched itself from beside the rail 
while the man was shifting his rifle from his left to his 
right hand, and something flew through the air and 
hit the sentry so heavily in the face that he stumbled 
backwards. Then the officer who had given him the 
order was on the unfortunate man like a whirlwind, 
and the shadow beside him. 

" I've got my hand over his mouth," gasped Philip. 
" To the side with him ; now heave!" 

Geoff backed his chum up with a vengeance, grip- 



i8o On the Road to Bagdad 

ping the man's hands and tearing his rifle from him. 
Then, seizing him by the legs, while Philip managed 
to grip the man's shoulder, still holding his mouth 
firmly closed, the two rushed him to the side and flung 
him over into the river, Geoff" tossing his rifle into the 
water after him. 

** Now back," he whispered to Philip, taking him 
by the sleeve of his coat, *'the chap is sure to shout 
and alarm the others. Let's get back and down to our 
dinghy till things quiet down again. Of course, if 
he doesn't shout, all the better, for then we shall be 
able to tackle the other business." 

Even before they could turn to run along the deck, 
the splash which the man's body had made as it fell 
into the water was followed by a shriek, and then by 
a hoarse shout as he sang out loudly for help, by a 
shout which stirred the silence hanging over the river, 
and brought the men bobbing up from their quarters 
for'ard, and those three officers stumbling up the 
steps of their cabin and out on to the deck. And in 
that short space of time Philip and Geoff had stolen 
aft, and, slipping over the rail, had slid down into the 
dinghy. 

"Quite a little commotion!" laughed Geoff as he 
listened to the shouts above him. "Of course I'm 
sorry for the sentry." 

"Rather a dirty game, eh?" said Philip. "But 
I suppose all's fair in war, eh, Geoff? And besides, 
supposing I had been the sentry, and you'd come along 
and chucked me overboard, I should naturally enough 
howl out so as to give the alarm and to ask for assis- 
tance; but I shouldn't be dead, not by a long chalk, 
and, seeing that I can swim, I should do my best to 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre i8i 

keep myself afloat till the river twisted and deposited 
me on one of the banks. If that sentry's sensible, 
that's what he'll do; on the other hand, if he can't 
swim — which is hard lines, of course, but not our fault, 
and a matter we can't deal with — of course, there it is, 
he'll drown, and neither of us can help it. The best 
we can do is to wish him luck, for he's now out of the 
way and not likely to harm us." 

Meanwhile there was pandemonium on the deck of 
the vessel, shouts and cries coming to the two young 
officers in the dinghy, shouts and cries which were 
drowned by the stentorian voice of one of the officers, 
undoubtedly the bald-headed individual who was 
senior of the party. 

*' What's that? What's happened?" he bellowed. 
** Someone shouted, and I'm sure I heard a splash in 
the river. Where's the sentry? Pass him aft here so 
that he can report on the incident." 

But of the sentry there was not a sign, though a 
faint shout coming from farther down the river, whither 
the unfortunate fellow had now floated, was sufficient 
evidence of the cause of that splash which the Com- 
mander had heard, and explanation of the absence of 
the sentry. 

" Deserter!" cried one of the officers, seizing upon 
the first idea which came to him. 

'' Who dives into the river and risks drowning? A 
wise suggestion indeed!" the irate voice of the Com- 
mander answered. '* But if not, how comes he to 
have fallen into the river. Foul play, eh? One of 
his comrades with a grudge against him, a sneaking 
hound who has crept up from the quarters for'ard and 
has suddenly pounced upon him? 



i82 On the Road to Bagdad 

** More than likely!" came the answer. *' More 
than likely!" 

There was silence for a while, and then the tread 
of boots on the deck just above the stern beneath 
which the dinghy was lying. 

''It's a strange thing this disappearance of the 
sentry," Geoff heard a voice saying — the voice of the 
Commander. "But there it is, and one man more 
or less makes no difference." 

There followed a loud guffaw which made Geoft 
wince, so heartless did it sound, and in a moment he 
recognized the voice of that young and elegant Turkish 
officer who had sat at the end of the cabin table, smok- 
ing lazily and curling his dark moustache. 

"The sort of sentiments he would give utterance 
to," he told himself. " It's the kind of thing a fellow 
hates to hear, and though I was instrumental in push- 
ing that poor beggar overboard, yet I am at least 
sorry for him, and hope that he will have escaped 
drowning, and will have landed safely on the bank oi 
the river. And here's one of his own officers laughing 
as though it didn't matter how many men were lost. 
Beastly!" 

" Eh?" asked Philip in a whisper. " What's that? 
Listen to those fellows up there!" 

For a few moments there had been silence above 
their heads, where they knew now that at least two of 
the three officers were standing, and the breeze wafted 
down to them the smell of tobacco smoke. They 
heard the boots of the Turkish officers scraping on the 
deck, and a louder sound as one of them rested his 
foot on the rail of the vessel. Then the voice of the 
elder man came to their ears again. 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 183 

** Yes, there are plenty of them, and one more or 
less makes no difference," he told his comrade care- 
lessly, and then puffed heavily at the cigar he was 
smoking — so heavily, indeed, that Geoff could hear 
him. *' Well, well!" he continued; *'it's a peaceful 
night for drowning, my comrade, a peaceful night! 
See, there's the moon above us, and stars, while the 
water trickles away below our keel in the most delicious 
and refreshing manner. A cool night after a hot day, 
and a sweet breeze to blow away the smell of the 
marshes. But there, it is nearly time to turn in ; go 
to your bunk, my friend, for I have a mind to sit here 
and finish my cigar in peace and quietness." 

He interrupted the younger officer in the midst of a 
loud and noisy yawn, and there came the heavy fall 
of a foot upon the deck, which made it appear that it 
was the younger man who had placed his foot upon 
the rail of the vessel. Then something fell beside 
the dinghy, and hissed for a moment as it struck the 
water — the stump end of the cigar which this young 
elegant had been smoking. 

^' A fine night, and a cool one, as you say, Com- 
mander," he said languidly, stifling another yawn, 
'' and time for all of us to be in bed. But I know your 
ways; you are one of those who burn the candle at 
both ends, who sit up till the dawn is breaking, and 
tumble into your bunk only to appear again as the 
sun is rising. Good-night, Commander!" 

From the sharp sounds above, it appeared that he 
must have drawn himself up at attention and clicked 
his heels. Then there was a short pause, and imme- 
diately afterwards the sound of his retreating feet as he 
went along the deck towards his cabin, and Geoff and 



1 84 On the Road to Bagdad 

Philip, listening down below, heard him descend the 
companion-way, somewhere farther forward, and later 
the sharp crash of a cabin-door being closed. Then 
there came to their ears the softer patter of feet just 
above their heads, as the stout Commander of this 
Turkish steamer strolled to and fro on the stern of the 
vessel; and again also the aroma from his cigar was 
wafted down to them on the midnight breeze. Philip 
gripped Geoff's shoulder and shook his chum. 

*' Hist!" he said; ''you hear the old bounder?" 

''Of course. All alone! Smoking a reflective 
cigar. Now, if " 

"Just if," Philip told him. " If— of course we 
could, only it'll want some careful doing." 

"What will?" demanded Geoff, though the same 
thought had struck them both, and was passing 
through their minds. 

" Why, if we managed to shy that sentry over- 
board, and so got rid of him, why not do the same for 
the old buffer up above us; he'd be over the rail in 
next to no time, and would be only too glad to find a 
boat near at hand to rescue him. Look here, Geoff! 
I've a little plan that's worth considering." 

"H — h — sh! He's stopped!" declared Geoff, his 
voice sunk to a whisper, and his lips close to Philip's 
ear: " Wonder whether he suspects our presence?" 

The steps above them had indeed stopped suddenly, 
though the aroma of the cigar the Turkish officer was 
smoking was still wafted down to that space beneath 
the stern where Geoff and Philip were hiding. They 
heard a cough, a gentle cough, as the Turk cleared his 
throat, and later the sound of whistling, while within 
a minute the man began to pace to and fro again, very 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 185 

slowly, very languidly, as if there was no haste and 
no hurry, and the Commander was enjoying his 
little solitary tramp and the peace and quietness of 
his surroundings. 

**Go on," said Geoff; ** what's the plan? We kid- 
nap the beggar, of course — that's the plan we set out 
with this evening. I can see farther than that natu- 
rally enough; for, as you've hinted already, we shy 
him overboard, and then come to his rescue. Now?" 

*' There'll be a tremendous row and ruction," Philip 
told him. *'The new sentry that they've posted for- 
'ard will give the alarm, and, once it's found out that 
the Commander's disappeared, every man aboard will 
be turned out, and if they've got boats, as is most 
likely the case, for we saw a number trailing behind 
this steamer, they'll man them and row about in order 
to try to find the beggar. Now suppose we counter 
that move?" 

*'Yes?" asked Geoff eagerly, for he realized the 
truth of Philip's statement, and could see that, whereas 
the loss of a humble sentry had caused no great com- 
motion, that of the Commander of the vessel might 
very well lead to a general alarm, to the disturbance 
of the whole ship's company, and to a frantic search 
in which they might easily be discovered. ^'Yes?" 
he asked again impatiently. 

'' That's where my extra little plan comes in," said 
Philip, and the young fellow chuckled, whereat Geoff 
gripped his wrist savagely, and shook it. 

*' Shut up!" he said; *'the fellow's only just above 
our heads, and might easily hear you. Idiot!" 

''Thanks!" giggled Philip. ''But really, if it 
comes off, it will be tremendously funny. Now here's 



1 86 On the Road to Bagdad 

the plan: I hop into the water just here, and swim up 
alongside the steamer, and when I get to her bows, I 
clamber aboard somehow. We all know that she's 
anchored in mid-stream, and I'm pretty well sure, from 
the sounds which came when she dropped her anchor, 
that she's moored by a hawser. A chain would have 
clanked out over the side, and we should have heard 
it, whereas there was a sharp splash and nothing fol- 
lowed. See the point, eh?" he asked eagerly. *' She's 
moored by a rope, and I have a knife here that would 
cut through a ship's cable." 

It was Geoff's turn to exclaim, a smothered excla- 
mation, while he gripped Philip's arm again with 
fingers which were like a vice. 

"Fine!" he told him in a whisper. '^And then? 
You've cut the cable, you've set the ship free, and of 
course she floats down the stream without any of them 
being the wiser. The chances are she'll be washed 
about three or four or more hundred yards before the 
crew know what's happened, and then it'll only be 
because she strikes ground, and comes to a stop on a 
sand-bank farther down the stream. But — but, won't 
it rather throw us out of our bearings. Just remember 
that it's pitch-dark in the marshes, and that we've got 
to find our way back to the steam-launch. It'll want 
some doing in any case, I can tell you, and if we once 
get off our bearings it'll be almost an impossibility. 
But what follows when you've cut the cable?" 

"What you'd expect," Philip told him with glee. 
" I'm on the ship, and I've set her loose, and for the 
matter of that I should saw through the hawser till it's 
not quite parted, and leave the stream and the weight 
of the vessel to do the rest; then I slip aft, and if I 



GeofF and Philip manoeuvre 187 

find that it's out of the question to pass the sentry, I 
drop overboard again, and float down beside her till 
I am nearer the stern; then I clamber to her deck 
again, crawl right aft, and give that old chap above 
us a punch that will topple him right over." 

It was Geoff's turn to giggle. For the life of him 
he could not help smiling and chuckling, and indeed 
found it hard to prevent himself from laughing out- 
right. The gusto with which Philip outlined his plan, 
his tremendous eagerness and enthusiasm, and the 
glee in his tone — whispered though it was — were 
simply infectious. It was only by clapping a hand 
over his mouth, and gripping Philip's wrist so firmly 
that that young fellow expostulated by shaking the 
grip off violently, that Geoff could master his feelings. 

** Tremendous!" he told his chum. *'And if it 
doesn't succeed, well it — er — ought to." 

''Then, right oh! I'll leave my tunic and revolver 
here, and go in my shirt and breeches. Boots ain't 
wanted for swimming either, so I'll take these off. 
Listen to the old beggar whistling!" 

As the young British officer rapidly divested him- 
self of his coat, and of his boots and puttees, he could 
hear the Turkish Commander still sauntering to and 
fro on the deck above, every now and again whistling 
gently and cheerfully. That he was still smoking also 
there was no doubt, for occasionally the whiff of his 
cigar was swept down towards the dinghy. 

"And a ripping good cigar, believe me," whispered 
Philip, *'and an awful shame to deprive him of its 
enjoyment, and to waste it before it's quite finished. 
But war, don't you know, Geoff, is no respecter of 
things and circumstances and people. The old 



i88 On the Road to Bagdad 

bounder above will suffer for the cause — our cause, 
I mean — for we jolly well mean to have him." 

What a thing it was to have as a companion in 
such a critical adventure a young fellow gifted with 
such splendid spirits, with so light a heart that all 
thought of danger slipped from his shoulders. Not 
that Geoff himself was the one to consider risks in the 
midst of such an undertaking, or even before setting 
out for the venture; though, to be sure, like every 
other young officer, he had his serious times, and, as 
they had paddled their way towards the steamer, had 
wondered what would happen, whether they would 
meet with success or dismal failure, and whether cap- 
ture or death would be the result of their visit. But 
long ago he had thrown off all doubts, and was ready 
and eager to face anything — a readiness made all the 
more pronounced by the encouragement he received 
from Philip. 

''You are simply splendid, Phil, old boy," he told 
ihim enthusiastically, and still in the lowest of low 
whispers. '* Of course I'll back you up through thick 
and thin. I'll wait till I hear the old boy plump over- 
board, and have the dinghy already cast loose, and 
ready to push off into the river. Hauling him aboard 
will be no easy matter, but it's got to be done, and 
without capsizing the dinghy. Then you'll have to 
join us, though the combined weight of the three will 
almost sink this cockle-shell. Still, it's the smallest of 
our adventures, and once we are all aboard we'll have 
got through with the greater part of the business. 
Ready?" he asked. 

''Aye! Ready!" said Philip in the most careless 
manner possible. 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 189 

Stretching his hand overhead, he caught the rope 
to which the dinghy was made fast and put his full 
weight on it. Then he lifted himself out of the 
dinghy, and very slowly and gingerly lowered him- 
self into the water, making not so much as a splash 
in doing so. A vigorous stroke with his legs took 
him as far as the rudder of the steamer, and for a 
moment his fingers played about it; then, gripping 
the bilge keel which ran round the side of the steamer, 
and against which the water lapped continually, he 
pulled himself forward up-stream, finding but little 
difficulty in carrying out his purpose. It took him 
perhaps five minutes to reach the bows of the vessel — 
five solid minutes, during which he had to stop on 
two occasions, the first to allow the Commander of 
the vessel to tramp to the opposite side, and the 
second for the same reason when he came opposite 
the beat of the sentry. Then his fingers lit upon the 
stem-post, and, pulling himself up out of the water, 
he reached for the rail, only to find that it was a foot 
or more above him, and quite out of his reach, in 
spite of all his efforts. But Phil was not the sort of 
British officer lo give way easily, or to allow himself 
to be lightly beaten. Indeed, there are few of them 
of whom this cannot be said ; for a more resourceful, 
more gallant, and a more dashing set of young men no 
country has ever possessed, and no finer set of young 
fellows have ever obeyed the national call to duty. 

*' Beastly high up — rather a bother!" was all he 
told himself while he clung to the stem-post and con- 
sidered. Then, placing his stockinged feet against 
the post, and heading up-stream, he shot himself for- 
ward through the water with a violent kick, and, 



I go On the Road to Bagdad 

groping about, soon gripped the cable to which the 
steamer was moored. 

^' Cable all right! Good, sound, honest rope," he 
chuckled. ^' And there's that sentry to be considered. 
It seems to me that I might easily cut through the 
rope just here on the water-level and leave it hanging 
by a thread; then, by the time it has parted, the stream 
will have washed me down to the after end of the 
steamer, and I shall be ready for the last act in this 
drama. That's it! That's the ticket! And here goes 
for the cable!" 

He hooked one arm over the rope, while he extri- 
cated — not without difficulty — the jack-knife which 
he had in his trouser-pocket. Opening the big blade 
with his teeth, he then gripped the cable and com- 
menced to saw through it till it was almost two-thirds 
severed. At that point he desisted suddenly, for there 
came an ominous crack from the rope he had been 
cutting, while he could feel with his fingers that the 
severed strands were separating widely. 

" It will be through in a minute," he told himself; 
'*for, though I had no idea of it, the stream here is 
running fairly fast, and the weight of the vessel with 
the stream on it must be giving a strong pull on the 
rope. There it goes, cracking again, and I can feel 
the strands pulling themselves asunder. It's time to 
be off." 

He wasted no valuable moments in closing his knife 
and pocketing it again, for, owing to his drenched 
clothing it had been a difficult enough task to extri- 
cate it from his trousers ; he dropped it, therefore, and 
let it sink to the bottom of the river, while he himself 
let go of the parting cable and struck down the stream 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 191 

till his lingers touched the side of the vessel and he 
was washed down along it. Then the fingers of 
both hands gripped the bilge keel, and he listened 
for the tramp of the sentry, only to find that he was 
past him and well on towards the stern of the vessel ; 
in fact, he reached the spot where he might safely 
hope to clamber aboard without observation. And 
now, with the help of the bilge keel, which gave him 
a leverage, Philip raised his body from the water, 
and, throwing one hand above his head, just managed 
to reach the rail and grip it. The rest was an easy 
matter for a young and active fellow such as he was, 
and within a few seconds he was on the deck, gasping 
after his exertions, and dropping pools of water which 
ran away from his feet into the scuppers. 

'* What's that? Someone on the deck!" he heard 
the Commander exclaim, though Philip did not know 
the meaning of the words uttered. 

This, however, he knew perfectly well — that his 
presence was suspected, and that the sauntering steps 
of the Turkish officer had suddenly come to a rest, 
while without doubt the man was staring in his direc- 
tion ; the dull glow of the end of his cigar was suffi- 
cient indication of that fact, while the voice supported 
the suggestion. Then from right for'ard there came 
a dull, sharp snap, while a subdued shudder ran down 
the deck of the vessel and communicated itself to 
Philip. 

^'Cable's gone!" he told himself. *'Time I was 
moving." 

With a bound he went along the deck till he was 
within a yard of the glowing end of that cigar and 
within striking distance of the Commander. Throw- 



192 On the Road to Bagdad 

ing himself upon the astonished Turk, he gripped 
him with both arms, and then hurled himself and his 
captive over the rail of the vessel. At the same 
moment Geoff pushed his dinghy from under the 
stern, and, taking his paddle up, waited for the ap- 
pearance of the two who had so suddenly been 
immersed in the water. It was perhaps five seconds 
later when two heads bobbed up quite close to him, 
and he heard one of the two gasp and splutter. Giving 
a swift stroke with his paddle, he dropped it in the 
bottom of the dinghy, and, stretching out a hand, 
gripped the hair of one of the figures. 

'* Let go; it's me! Get hold of the old beggar!'* 
Philip was quite indignant, and, to tell the truth, 
the grip which Geoff had inadvertently fastened upon 
his chum's head of hair had been excessively painful; 
but in a moment he had transferred it to the shoulder 
of the Turk, and had drawn him close to the side of 
the dinghy. The stout and somewhat elderly com- 
mander was puffing like a grampus, and spurting 
water out of his mouth, while he wriggled and struggled 
to free himself from the one who had thrown his arms 
round him. Thoroughly scared by the unexpected 
assault which had been made upon him, and deprived 
utterly of speech by his sudden immersion in the 
river, he yet managed to get rid of the water which 
filled his mouth, and to give vent to a shout, a sub- 
dued shout, it is true, but one which easily reached 
the ears of the sentry aboard the steamer. Indeed, 
that individual had already halted on his beat, and 
was staring over the side into the Euphrates. He 
had felt the sudden tremor which had gone down the 
decks of the steamer as the cable parted, and there 




PHILIP HURLED HIMSELF AND HIS CAPTIVE OVER THE RAIL OF 
THE VESSEL " 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 193 

was now a curious movement, a strange bobbing* 
of the ship, which was so different from her placid 
stillness of a moment or so earlier that he became 
suspicious, almost alarmed, and it required only the 
call of his Commander to cause him to shout at the 
top of his voice, to run to the companion-way which 
led to the quarters of the crew, and to beat upon it 
with the butt of his rifle. In fact, long before Geoff 
and Philip had accomplished their purpose and com- 
pleted the capture of the Commander, men were pour- 
ing up on to the deck of the steamer, shouts were 
startling the air, while two or three of the men fired 
their rifles and thus increased the confusion. 

Geoff leaned over the side of the dinghy, threaten- 
ing to capsize it, and, placing his lips to the ear of 
the thoroughly startled Turk, spoke to him sternly. 

*'You are a captive — a prisoner," he told him. 
*' Shout again, make the smallest show of resistance, 
and we shall push you under the water; but if you 
are quiet, and come aboard this boat readily, your life 
will be saved on certain conditions. You agree?" 

The big bald head of the Turk nodded energetically, 
while the moonbeams were reflected from the wet and 
polished spot which a few moments before had been 
covered by his fez. 

''You agree?" asked Geoff again. "We will save 
you on condition that you tell us all you know of your 
people. You refuse, eh?" 

The hand which a moment before had gripped the 
shoulder of the Turk, in lieu of the missing hair, closed 
even more firmly, while the relentless Geoff pressed 
the unfortunate Turk lower in the water, till it looked 
as though he would send him right under. 

(0 834) 13 



194 On the Road to Bagdad 

"Stop!" gasped the Commander. *'Save me! I 
agree!" 

"Then come aboard! Give him a hoist, Phil, and 
gently with it!" 

It was no easy matter to get that big Turk into the 
tiny little dinghy; and yet, with his willing assistance 
now — for to tell the truth the unfortunate Commander 
was innocent of the art of swimming, and had a 
horror of the water — Geoff and his chum contrived to 
roll him over the side, and deposit him on the bottom. 
Then Philip went right aft, and, with Geoffs help, 
came aboard in that direction, the three of them 
causing the dinghy to sink so low in the v/ater that 
now and again the stream lapping against the sides 
splashed over. 

"Sit dead in the centre and don't move for your 
life," Geoff told the Turk. "Now, Philip, paddle." 

Dipping their paddles into the water they struck off 
to the left, and didn't slacken their exertions till they 
had emerged from the river and were in the streamless 
waste of waters from which they had stolen that 
evening. Now and again they had cast their eyes 
over their shoulders to see what was happening on 
the steamer, and, thanks to the lights aboard her which 
now flared up from many of the cabins, and thanks 
also to the shouts of her crew, to the hoarse and 
furious commands of the officers left aboard her, they 
had no difficulty in learning what happened. 

"She's gone right down stream and round the 
bend," chuckled Philip. 

"So we needn't bother any further about her — at 
least not for the present," said Geoff. "Let's sing 
out for our fellows." 



Geoff and Philip manoeuvre 195 

Guiding the boat in beside an island, he stood up, 
and, placing his hands to his mouth, halloed. Then 
he waited a moment and repeated the shout. 

^^ Listen! That's an answer, and from a point not 
so very far away," said Philip. *' Shout again! Yes, 
within easy distance, I should say, for after getting 
this old gentleman aboard we struck up-stream so as 
to make allowance for the drift after I had cut the 
cable. Christopher, Geoff, what a jolly good business!" 

For a hail persuaded them that they were indeed 
quite near to the steam-launch; and within the five 
minutes which followed, by dint of repeating their 
calls and listening to the answers, they were able to 
find their way back to the narrow channel in which 
their comrades lay waiting. 

*'Pull that dinghy aboard at once," commanded 
Geoff; ^^and one of you can take charge of this 
prisoner. I don't think you'll find he'll be a nuisance, 
for I've told him to expect a shot if he tries any non- 
sense. Now then, get up steam as fast as you can, 
for, at the first streak of dawn, I mean to get away 
and make a rush for the river." 

Long before the sun was up, and whilst a thick 
mist still hung over the marshes, the launch was 
poled out of the channel in which she had been hidden, 
and was gently forced towards the Euphrates. Once 
arrived in the centre of the stream she was allowed 
to drift, power now and again being applied to her 
propeller so as to keep her under control and allow 
the steersmen to direct her. Half an hour later she 
slowly drifted by the hull of the steamer aboard which 
Geoff and Phil had made such an adventurous visit 
on the previous evening, now stranded high and dry 



196 On the Road to Bagdad 

on a sand-bank. Unobserved, the launch swept on- 
ward, and very soon, when the first rays of the sun 
had sucked up the mist, and made the course of the 
stream easily visible, the engine was set to work, and 
they shot down-stream at a rate which rapidly brought 
them to the Shatt-el-Arab, 

By then the Turk had recovered his composure, 
and, thanks to the blanket with which he was provided, 
had been able to get rid of his wet clothing. Indeed, 
he became quite communicative, and long before the 
launch had reached the opposite side of the Shatt-el- 
Arab he had told Geoff all he knew of the disposition 
of the Turkish forces. 

Thus the two young officers who had been sent into 
the marshes to gather news of the enemy returned, 
having brilliantly achieved their object. 

'*The information will be of the greatest service," 
they were told. "We are making dispositions to 
meet this Turkish force of whom you have gained 
tidings, and then the expedition will fight its way up 
the Shatt-el-Arab and into the heart of Mesopotamia." 

Fighting, indeed, was before the British Expedition, 
for though their goal was the city of Bagdad — a jewel 
in the eyes of the Turks and the Arabs of this region 
— there were leagues of sands and marshes between 
them and it, and thousands of the enemy. 



CHAPTER XI 

A Soldiers' Battle 

Bugles were resounding throughout the expeditionary 
camp, stationed close to the bank of the Shatt-el- 
Arab, within two mornings of the return of Geoff and 
his chum from their adventurous journey into the 
wastes and marshes of the Euphrates. There was, 
perhaps, a sharper, more jubilant ring about the notes 
of those instruments on this particular morning, notes 
which brought men hurrying to join the ranks, which 
set troopers saddling their horses with an energy and 
rapidity which perhaps had been lacking on the pre- 
vious day, and which caused radiant smiles and a 
glow of enthusiasm to spread throughout the ranks of 
the force. 

** It's a general move, eh?" Philip asked his chum, 
meeting him as he crossed from his bivouac of the 
night before to fall in with his regiment. '^ Please 
note that I am appealing to you, Geoff, as a man 
who ought to know everything that's happening; if 
not, what's the good of a fellow being on the Head- 
quarters Staff. What's up?" 

" I know as little as you do," came the laughing 
rejoinder; '* but I can guess, and my guess is that we 
are on the way up the river to take Kurna. It's some- 

197 



iqS On the Road to Bagdad 

where about there that the Rivers Tigris and Eu- 
phrates come together, and I suppose it's a point of 
some strategical importance." 

*' Strategical! Ahem!" coughed Philip. ''Ain't 
we going it! From talking Turkish we're now get- 
ting to use quite military sort of language!" 

It was just one of his little pleasantries, and, indeed, 
Geoff was the sort of young fellow who never resented 
being twitted, and, moreover, he was rather given to 
being facetious himself, especially when with Philip. 
However, he was too busy on this eventful morning 
to spend time in bantering, for indeed much was about 
to happen. 

We have mentioned already that the head of the 
Persian Gulf is of no little importance to Great Britain, 
and that for many reasons, one of which, no doubt of 
somewhat recent origin, has to do with the supply of 
oil for our battleships — a supply which is piped from 
the oil-fields in Persia, under the control of Britain. 
The pipe-line itself passes down in the neighbour- 
hood of Ahwaz, towards which place a portion of the 
Expeditionary Force was at that moment proceeding, 
with a view to seizing it and holding it against the 
enemy. But the safe possession and protection of 
that oil-line was not the only reason for sending an 
Expeditionary Force to Mesopotamia. 

There were other, and perhaps somewhat complex 
reasons, which can only be broadly dealt with in this 
cover. International questions are involved, the dis- 
cussion of which would take up an abundance of space, 
and might well prove not altogether interesting. But 
it becomes necessary at this stage to give some idea, 
even if it be only a meagre description, of other reasons 



A Soldiers' Battle 199 

which induced the British Government to dispatch a 
force to the valley of the Euphrates. 

The Persian Gulf and the coast which borders it 
may be said to be the eastern end of the Turkish 
possessions, while Turkey in Asia is bounded to the 
north and east by the difficult country of Persia. 
Already we have sketched in the position of Russia 
and of the Caucasus frontier, and have stated that the 
coming of Turkey into this gigantic conflict on the 
side of Germany and Austria — the Central Powers — 
had a distinct and direct effect on the fighting in 
Europe, seeing that the Turks were able to dispose of 
some excellent troops, and were able to dispatch them 
promptly to the Caucasus area, where, fearing the 
invasion of southern Russia, the Tsar was forced to 
march and post an adequate army — an army which, 
but for the Turks, might have been merely a frontier 
guard, allowing of the bulk of the troops being dis- 
patched to Poland, there to meet Germany and Austria. 
Thus the entry of Turkey into the war affected Great 
Britain and her allies, but yet cannot be said to have 
called for an expedition on our part to the eastern end 
of the Turkish Empire. Distances are huge in the 
country governed in name by the Sultan of Turkey, 
and in actual fact by the Young Turk party, who, let 
us explain, are themselves swayed, if not actually 
governed, by the emissaries of the Kaiser in Con- 
stantinople. From Constantinople itself to Bagdad, 
or to the Caucasus front, is roughly a thousand miles, 
and from Bagdad to the head of the Gulf of Persia 
is perhaps some five or six hundred more. But, as 
we have shown, a blow dealt at a distance may, in 
the war which is now raging, affect the course of 



200 On the Road to Bagdad 

that war at some far-off point — as the amassing of 
Turkish troops on the Caucasian frontier had already 
undoubtedly affected the fortunes of the Russians in 
Poland. Thus our Expeditionary Force sent to the 
valley of the Euphrates and of the Tigris might very 
well, though that point is at such a great distance 
from the Russo-Turkish frontier, affect the fortunes 
of the Turkish troops fighting the Russians in the 
Caucasian Mountains; for undoubtedly the enemy 
would need to send troops against us. But, and this 
is a matter of considerable importance, the valley of 
the Euphrates is notoriously unhealthy and is an 
extremely difficult country to negotiate. Practically 
roadless, and without a railway, it is not a country 
easy of invasion, and at the best no rapid advance 
was to be expected. Thus the force which Britain 
could afford to send to this somewhat out-of-the-way 
part of the world, though it might affect the Turks to 
some degree, could not be expected to make a very 
serious difference to them. It would seem,, therefore, 
that there was another reason, and a better one, for 
our sending troops to Mesopotamia. 

Indeed, a consideration of facts well known to the 
British Government makes it clear that fear for the 
safety of India had something to do with the matter. 
It was known, and had been known for a long time, 
that German emissaries had been exceedingly busy, 
not only in Turkey in Asia but also in Persia. Persia 
itself is inhabited by a decadent nation, unable to keep 
order, disturbed by bands of outlaws. The country 
lies, as a glance at the map shows, squeezed in between 
Russia, Afghanistan, and Turkey; and passage through 
it, though difficult, gives access to our possessions in 



V 



A Soldiers' Battle 201 

India. There are not wanting signs that Germany 
would, if she could master her Turkish friends, 
quickly accomplish the subjection of Persia, and from 
thence make her blow against India. For recollect, 
though the seas give a clear passage to our Indian 
Dominions, there is a British fleet to be reckoned 
with, and the first day of the war saw that fleet para- 
mount, sweeping the seas, making the invasion of our 
Eastern possessions on the part of Germany hopeless 
by the sea route. Thus, Germany had need to look 
for another way, and for long her thoughts had been 
at work, scheming and conspiring to obtain the assist- 
ance of Turks and Persians. 

No doubt it was for this reason, amongst others, 
that an Expeditionary Force left India for Mesopo- 
tamia; for, with Russian troops able to invade Turkey 
from the north, and to keep a watchful eye on Persia, 
and with British troops advancing up the Tigris River 
to the very boundaries of that country, there was 
every prospect of being able to counter the moves of 
the Kaiser's agents, and to ruin their fortunes. Actual 
opposition from the subjects of the Shah of Persia was 
hardly to be expected or feared, for, if anything, the 
ruling powers in Persia were likely to be friendly; 
and then again the condition of the country has now 
for some considerable while been in a chaotic state, 
almost devoid of a standing army, and so feebly 
governed that anarchy and outlawry had at one period 
been rampant. Indeed, the unsettled condition of 
Persia, its contiguity to Russia, and the danger of 
outlaws invading that country, had led, some while 
before the outbreak of this huge war, to a penetration 
of the Shah's dominions by the soldiers of the Tsar, 



202 On the Road to Bagdad 

which had at once created international jealousies. 
No doubt Germany, scheming at that time, as she 
undoubtedly was, to obtain a hold over the Shah of 
Persia and over the country, was furiously jealous of 
the coming of the Russians, and as furiously antagon- 
istic to British influence in southern Persia. It may 
be said that the three nations, and others who may 
have been interested, watched the position in Persia 
with no little misgiving ; and, seeing that outlawry was 
rife, and that some means must be obtained for bring- 
ing peace to the inhabitants, an amicable agreement 
was arrived at, after a while, which resulted in a system 
of policing — the officers of the force employed being 
brought from Sweden. 

Thus, at the moment when Russia was facing the 
Turkish armies along the Caucasus frontier, and when 
the British Expeditionary Force was marching up the 
Shatt-el- Arab towards Kurna, Persia, seemingly 
quiescent and under the nominal governorship of its 
Shah, was controlled in some considerable measure 
by a police force commanded by Swedish officers, and 
no doubt the integrity of those officers was not all that 
it should be. That an attempt would be made to 
tamper with them, to suborn their allegiance to the 
Shah, to bribe them from the carrying out of their 
duties, was nearly certain. Germans were already in 
the country — those peaceful penetrators sent by the 
ambitious Kaiser — and might be trusted to make the 
utmost of the opportunity. For see what an oppor- 
tunity lay before them ! Here was a police force con- 
trolled by officers of a nation which was not a party to 
the war now raging, officers whose goodwill might 
perhaps be obtained by the offer of the Kaiser's money. 



A Soldiers' Battle 203 

There was a police force there, too, ready organized, 
and practically no army raised from the people of 
Persia to oppose it. Even had the Shah any consider- 
able number of soldiers to boast of, there were yet 
in the country scores of outlaws who could be bought 
with the same gold which purchased the allegiance of 
those Swedish officers. The moment was almost ripe 
to strike a blow for the country, to seize it while 
Russia and France and Britain were busy elsewhere, 
and to lay the foundation in Persia for the march 
through Constantinople of Turks and Germans, and 
for the campaign destined to strike a blow at India. 

Such a state of affairs would, if allowed to proceed 
unchecked, present a danger of no small degree to 
Great Britain and her Indian dependencies. The con- 
dition of Persia in fact, the known activity of German 
agents there, and probably the doubtful position of 
the Swedish police were factors in the decision to send 
a force to Mesopotamia. We shall see later how 
Russia, furiously engaged as she was in Poland and 
Galicia, and heavily attacked in the Caucasus, still 
found troops to march into northern Persia ; and how, 
when the conspiracies hatched by German agents 
came to a head, and the police force we have already 
mentioned seized certain of the Persian towns and 
some British subjects, those Russian troops intervened 
in the most summary and drastic manner. 

If one seeks for other reasons for the dispatch of 
a British force to the notoriously unhealthy valley 
of the Tigris, one may suggest that, in addition to 
combating German influence in Turkey, it was 
equally important to attempt to overthrow the hold 
which the Kaiser and his emissaries had obtained 



204 On the Road to Bagdad 

over the Young Turk Party, and through them of the 
Turkish nation. We may go further, seeing that the 
course of events proved this latter to be the case, and 
add that the progress of the war, and the pecuHar geo- 
graphical situation attached to our Russian ally, made 
it of paramount importance that Great Britain should 
engage the Turks and endeavour to break their 
opposition. For Russia, with its teeming millions of 
men, is yet not a manufacturing country, and warfare 
nowadays has become more or less a matter of 
mechanics. To raise an army, where men alone are 
required, is not a difficult matter where men are to be 
found in abundance; but, in these modern days, when 
arms of precision are of paramount importance in the 
waging of war, and when, as in the case of Russia, a 
country is unable herself to provide her thousands of 
soldiers with those weapons, it behoves her allies to 
send them to her. It is here that the peculiar geo- 
graphical situation of the Tsar's dominions provided 
another serious difficulty. Southern Russia — the ports 
of the Crimea — is easily get-at-able at all seasons by 
way of the Mediterranean and the Black Sea; but 
close the Dardanelles — as the Turks had now done — 
and Russia is only approachable by way of the White 
Sea, or through her possessions in Asia — for the 
closing of the Baltic Sea may be taken as effected the 
moment war was declared between Germany and 
Russia. The result of such a closure can be easily 
realized if one looks at the map; for in the winter 
months at the opening of the campaign Russia was 
entirely cut off from her European allies, and could 
only be reached from the direction of Asia; while in 
the open months of the year Archangel could not be 



A Soldiers' Battle 205 

described as a port either convenient in position or of 
vast dimensions. Thus we arrive at another reason 
for attacking Turkey. 

The opening of the Dardanelles, the capture of 
Constantinople, and the domination of the Black Sea 
were of vital importance to Russia, and of just as vital 
importance to Britain, seeing that Russia was our ally. 
We know, too, that, as the months rolled on, and failure 
to burst a road through the narrow Dardanelles by 
means of our battle fleet became certain, an expedition 
was organized to seize the Isthmus of Gallipoli, to 
dominate the land forts, and so clear the road to the 
Sea of Marmora and Russia — an expedition which, in 
the course of the few months it fought on the isthmus, 
put up a glorious record for Great Britain and her 
colonies, and which, if it were unfortunately wanting 
in success, at least proved to the world at large 
that the youths of our nation are not wanting in 
prowess. 

No doubt one might suggest even further reasons 
for the sending of an expedition to the valley of the 
Tigris and Euphrates, but, as we have said already, 
the question is a large one, and hardly fitted for our 
discussion. We turn, therefore, once more, to Geoff 
and Philip, the two young subalterns who had already 
seen much adventure on the Euphrates. 

*'Hi! Stop! I want to talk to you," Philip sang 
out, as Geoff went swinging by on Sultan when the 
troops had covered a few miles from Basra. ** What's 
up?" 

It took Geoff quite a few minutes to pacify his fiery 
steed, and to quiet him down sufficiently to allow of 
an answer to his chum's question. For, if Geoff him- 



2o6 On the Road to Bagdad 

self were full of energy and enthusiasm, Sultan was 
overflowing with spirits, the sort of spirits which 
caused him to rear up time and again, which sent him 
bounding and curvetting from side to side till the 
sweat dropped from his narrow shoulders ; while often 
he would have been off at a mad gallop, perhaps right 
through the marching division, had it not been for the 
strong restraining hand which held him. In short, 
and in fact. Sultan had taken most kindly to the valley 
of the Tigris, and if his master was pleased at being 
one of the expedition, Sultan, had he been able to give 
an opinion, would have voted Mesopotamia the place 
above all others for himself and his master. 

*' What's up! Oh, well!" began Geoff, patting the 
neck of his charger. 

'^Well you needn't say it like that," Philip an- 
swered hotly. ** I'm not asking for any secrets, and, 
besides, it would be swank on your part to try to make 
out that you possessed 'em. Anyone can see that 
something's going to happen." 

^^And that 'something' is a good brush with the 
enemy," Geoff told him. ''We've had information 
that the Turks have come down the river and propose 
to attack us, and I hear that they are within only 
a short distance. What will it be like with shells 
bursting?" 

Neither of the two had, so far, been actually under 
shell-fire, though they had watched the British ships 
shelling the Turkish forts at the mouth of the Shatt- 
el-Arab before the landing of the expedition. But 
the day was not to be very much older before both of 
them were considerably wiser, and, may we say, con- 
siderably startled. It was, indeed, but a couple of 



A Soldiers' Battle 207 

hours later that the deep note of a gun reached their 
ears, followed by two others, and then by the shriek 
of shells coming towards them. There followed a 
commotion within a hundred feet of the point where 
the two young officers were standing, a commotion 
which sent Sultan rearing into the air till he nearly 
tore away the reins which Geoff, now dismounted, 
had swung over his shoulder. And then a column of 
sand and dust was blown high, while bits of metal 
and gravel swept like locusts round the heads of the 
soldiers. Philip turned his back, and coughed, and 
rubbed his eyes to get rid of the grit, while Geoff 
fought for his breath for quite a few moments. 

*'Like it?" asked Philip, with a mischievous grin, 
proceeding to mop his face with a handkerchief which 
had once been white, but which was now a beautiful 
desert colour. *^ There they go again; heavv metal, 
eh?" 

** Four-inch, I should say," Geoff answered ; *' big- 
ger perhaps. You'd better make sure of it, Philip. 
Why not catch one of the shells and let me know the 
measurements when you've finished — that is to say, if 
there's anything of you left after the skirmish? But 
there go our guns, and it sounds as though the 
advance-guard had already got into action. Ta-ta, 
old boy ! I must get off, for I was returning to Head- 
quarters after delivering a message." 

As he swung himself across the back of the restive 
Sultan, and galloped towards Head-quarters, he 
heard the guns aboard the sloops which were accom- 
panying the force up the Shatt-el-Arab open on the 
enemy. Bang! Bang! Bang! Quite sharp, sailor- 
like reports; while, in the far distance, through his 



2o8 On the Road to Bagdad 

glasses, he observed splotches of sand and dust 
springing up between himself and the flat horizon. 

''Take this 'chit' along to your old Commanding 
Officer," he was ordered the moment he reached 
Head-quarters. " Be good enough to ask him to act 
on the order immediately. You know the position of 
the regiment, and therefore need not delay to ask 
questions." 

Geoff saluted briskly, and tucked the note between 
his belt and his body; then, swinging Sultan round, 
he set him off at a pace which sent sand and gravel 
flying out behind them, and sent him across a wide 
open space — already passed by the troops — to that 
point where he knew the Mahrattas were marching. 
By now, the division had stretched itself out on the 
left bank of the river, its right flank protected by the 
water, and supported by the guns and rifles aboard 
the British sloops already mentioned. To the left it 
had deployed till the ranks were opened out consider- 
ably, while behind those ranks, now stationary, were 
the hundred-and-one followers always attached to an 
Indian army — bearers of ammunition for guns and 
rifles, water-carriers, stretcher-bearers, and other use- 
ful, if not ornamental, individuals. Here and there 
tall brown figures lay inertly on the smooth expanse 
of desert, while already stretcher-bearers were crossing 
the open space, bearing human bundles enclosed in 
stained khaki clothing towards the dressing-station 
opened for the reception and treatment of the wounded. 

It was a battle-scene in fact, the view one obtains 
behind the fighting front of an army — a view, up to 
this day, foreign to Geoff's eyes, save for what he had 
seen in the course of peace manoeuvres. But this was 



A Soldiers' Battle 209 

the real thing. For from the British front, and on 
beyond it, there came the rattle of rifles, punctuated 
every now and again by the sharp rat-a-tat-tat, rat-a- 
tat-tat of machine-guns, and drowned every few seconds 
by the deeper, hoarser, more venomous bellow of 
cannon. A shell plumped into the ground almost 
under Sultan, though the leap that animal gave carried 
him clear before the resulting explosion. As it was, 
he and his master were stung by the gravel flung 
out by the explosive, while a splinter of shell, singing 
past Geoff's leg, crossed the open space and found a 
billet in the body of a stretcher-bearer carrying one 
of the wounded. Crash ! Down the man went, and 
with him his burden, and for a moment or so Geoff 
watched as a comrade bent over him and examined 
the wound he had suffered. He saw the tall native 
lay his brother soldier out straight and stark on 
the desert, and then, helped by another, seize the 
stretcher and march on towards the rear of the army. 
It was just an incident. Those men carrying their 
stretcher, and assisting their damaged brothers, were 
doing their duty just as well as, just as unflinch- 
ingly as, and in circumstances of equal danger 
with those armed with rifles in the forefront of the 
battle. 

And what a sight it was when Geoff reached the 
Mahrattas, and came upon the officer he sought, 
occupying a shallow trench scooped in the sand 
behind his battalion. 

**A message, sir," he said, pulling the note out 
from his belt and presenting it, and then watching the 
officer as he opened it and read the contents. 

Then he swung his eyes over the backs of the men 

(C834) 14 



2IO On the Road to Bagdad 

of the Mahrattas, who were now lying flat on the 
ground, digging their way into the soft gravel, seek- 
ing shelter from the Turkish enemy. Across the 
plain stretching before him, perhaps six hundred yards 
distant, were deeply dug trenches, parapeted, and 
manned by soldiers of the Sultan, and no doubt com- 
manded in many cases by German officers. Farther 
back, and almost out of view, and dug in just as 
deeply and as securely as were the infantry, were 
guns — invisible almost, yet showing their positions 
every now and again by the dull-red flash which shot 
up above them. Geoff watched an instant, and listened 
to the rattle of musketry from the men stretching 
along the British line who were not engaged in dig- 
ging but in holding down the fire of the enemy — ^ 
watched those sharper red flashes in the distance, 
listened to the roar of British batteries, and saw a 
sudden blinding flash above one of those dug -in 
Turkish guns, and heard the splitting, thunderous 
report of a British shell as it got home on an enemy 
cannon; and then, though he watched for some few 
minutes, no sharp red point of light appeared above 
the spot, no answering report came from the gun 
dug into its hollow, for no doubt the British shell had 
put gun and crew out of action. As for bullets, 
they swept through the air like bees, humming and 
droning, splashing the sand and gravel here and 
there, throwing dust and stones over the soldiers 
lying full length and eagerly digging for shelter. 
They screamed and hissed past Sultan and past our 
hero, and between him and the officer to whom he 
had brought a message. They fascinated Geoff", and 
certainly did not frighten him in the slightest. So 



A Soldiers' Battle 211 

interested was he, in fact, with his view of the Turks 
— an excellent view considering he was mounted — 
and so taken up was he with watching those Turkish 
batteries and looking for the result of British shells 
amongst them, that he did not heed the voice of the 
officer he had accosted." 

Then a shout attracted his attention. 

'*That will do," he heard sharply; ''you are bring- 
ing fire on us with that white mount of yours, and it 
would be a pity to see him damaged. Get off back 
out of rifle-fire, or I shall have you on my hands 
wounded." 

Phit! Phit! A couple of bullets whizzed past 
Sultan's nose at that precise instant, and in a moment 
he was dancing on his hind legs, thrashing the air 
with those handsome fore legs of his, shaking his 
head, and neighing, while foam flecked his lips and 
soiled his beautiful arched neck. 

''D'you hear? Confound you, young Keith 1" 
shouted the officer. '' You'll get me shot next. Clear 
off, for you're drawing fire from the whole of the 
enemy front upon us." 

Crouching in his little hollow, the officer watched 
as the punctilious Geoff pulled Sultan to his feet again 
with a steady hand, and, sitting very upright — bolt 
upright — in fact, the position adapted for formal 
parades, saluted his senior. 

''Hang it," he shouted; ''go off!" and then 
smiled — an indulgent smile — as Sultan broke into a 
furious gallop and went off at mad speed across the 
open. "Fine boy! Nice boy!" that officer said as 
he glanced backward from his "funk hole". " Knew 
his father — and that's the sort of thing he would have 



212 On the Road to Bagdad 

done ; and how proud he would have been of the boy 
if only he'd lived to see him." 

Plunk! A bullet struck the lip of the parapet which 
one of his men had hurriedly thrown up before the 
officer, and sent a shower of sand and gravel all over 
him. Indeed, it drew his attention once more to the 
battle now proceeding and to the position of his own 
men. With glasses fixed to his eyes, and himself 
kneeling in his little shelter, the officer scanned the 
Turkish lines with the eye of an expert and a critic. 
Undoubtedly the enemy had taken up a strong posi- 
tion, and, moreover, were in strong force and were 
well supported by guns of large calibre. There 
was, in fact, no question of the British Expeditionary 
Force coming in contact with an enemy indifferently 
organized, badly armed, and meagrely supplied. No! 
Those Turkish troops sent to meet the British, and 
those others then fighting in the Caucasus Mountains, 
were the product of German energy and German 
money. They were part of that vast organization 
built up during some forty years past, which aimed 
at making the Kaiser the Emperor of the World, and 
not merely of humble Europe. If there had been any 
doubt about the question of the arming of this force 
which barred the progress of our soldiers, the shells 
flung at the latter were sufficient indication, while the 
rattle of rifles and the sharper staccato tack-tack of 
machine-guns proved the case without room for 
doubt or argument. Looking at those positions, those 
prepared trenches of the enemy, and guessing at their 
number of troops, which was considerable, it seemed 
almost hopeless for the Expeditionary Force to expect 
to be able to advance farther. And yet, as the dusk 



A Soldiers' Battle 213 

of evening came on, and the fighting died down, there 
was no sign of a British retirement. 

** We're going to hang on to our trenches all night," 
Geoff told his friend Philip when he hunted him out, 
after snatching a meal at Head-quarters. '' You mark 
my words! To-morrow will see something that'll 
startle the Turks and send 'em flying." 



CHAPTER XII 

Esbul, the Armenian 

A GRILLING sun poured its rays down on to the desert 
and on to the heads and backs and shoulders of the 
Turks and British and Indians aHke. Its glancing 
rays shone and flashed with startling brilliance from 
the broad sheet of water flowing so smoothly along 
beside the right flank of the British, making the naval 
sloops, which had come up the Shatt-el-Arab, stand 
out more prominently, more vindictively, as it were, 
than usual. The scene of this conflict might, but a 
day or two before, have been described by a visitor to 
this portion of Mesopotamia as entirely and absolutely 
uninteresting; for where could there be interest in a 
wide, almost flat stretch of sandy-gravel desert, bor- 
dered in the far south-west by a stretch of noisome 
green-clad marshes, and on the right by a river some 
seven hundred yards in breadth perhaps, almost inno- 
cent of vessels, and whose banks showed scarce a 
habitation. 

But see it now on this day of battle. As deserted 
it seemed as ever, as flat and devoid of landmarks as 
possible; and yet, when one looked closely at it, when 
— supposing one had clambered to the top of the tallest 
palm-tree — one peered at the desert and searched its 
every yard through a pair of glasses; see those lines 

914 



Esbul, the Armenian 215 

of trenches — trenches which the British Expeditionary 
Force had delved at furious speed during the hours of 
darkness — stretching away at right angles to the river. 
See those British guns dug in behind the trenches, 
well behind, and those others craftily hidden amongst 
the palm-trees, close to the Shatt-el-Arab; and cast 
a glance to the far left of the lines of trenches, and 
note those horsemen well away in the desert, waiting 
for an opportunity to outflank and round up the 
enemy. Yes, and beyond, in parallel lines, were the 
Turkish trenches, just as Geoff had seen them on the 
previous day. Deep lines cut in the soil like those 
of the British, seemingly unpeopled, and yet swarming 
with soldiers ready to do battle. 

But as yet the time had not arrived, and those 
swarming soldiers sat in their trenches invisible, save 
,for a busy sentry here and there who peeped warily 
over the parapet and looked towards the enemy. But 
tiny columns of smoke hung above the troops, and 
doubtless many a meal was being cooked over many 
a brazier. Perhaps it was five in the morning, for 
men must fight early where the sun is hottest. A gun 
sounded from the river, while a puff of smoke belched 
from the bows of one of the sloops anchored in the 
fairway. It was answered almost immediately by a 
trumpet-call in the far distance, and that imaginary 
person watching from the top of a palm-tree would 
have observed that the British cavalry were in motion. 

** It's coming off!" Geoff told Phil enthusiastically, 
as he cantered up to the position held by the reserves 
of the Mahrattas. *' We ain't going back, not a foot, 
and before nightfall we ought to have cleared them 
out of their trenches. A frontal attack, my boy, and 



2i6 On the Road to Bagdad 

not sufficient time nor sufficient guns to blow a way 
through them." 

Phil grinned up at his chum, a rather nervous little 
grin, for that was this gallant young fellow's way when 
he was excited and there were things doing. 

"Cold steel, eh?" he said. ''Then the Mahrattas 
are the boys to do it." 

And yet the hours wore away with little else but 
gun-fire and rifle-volleys, while the men sweltered and 
sweated in their trenches. Imagine the heat in those 
narrow dug-outs, with a tropical sun pouring right 
down into them, and men congregated closely. 

'* A charge ain't nuffin' to it," one of the men told a 
comrade, as he wiped the sweat from his forehead with 
a grimy, desert-stained hand. ''Swelp me! I wish I 
was in at 'em. What's a-keepin' of us?" 

The comrade addressed stared back at him blankly, 
for indeed the question was entirely beyond him. 
Mechanically, abstractedly, he pulled a little cloth 
bag from his tunic pocket, and from another a clay 
of venerable appearance, and somewhat attenuated it 
is true, seeing that the stem had broken off midway, 
and slowly stuffed the bowl with the weed he favoured. 
Just as slowly, just as abstractedly, he applied a lighted 
match to the bowl, and began to smoke almost sadly, 
growling into the stem, puffing huge columns of smoke 
against the parapet of the trench, and giving vent to 
low, angry growls, as though he were a dog in a very 
bad temper. Then, of a sudden, he delivered himself 
of well-considered opinions. 

'' Whoi ain't we a-doin' nuffink?" he asked in the 
most excellent cockney. '' Whoi nah, if Oi was the 
G.O.C. — and Oi tells yer there's more things than 



Esbul, the Armenian 217 

that what's more unHkely — if Oi was the G.O.C. Oi'd 
just be up and doin'. See 'ere, Bill, Oi 'aint got 
nuffink up against 'im — that's the G.O.C. — for every 
chap along of us knows that 'e's a good 'un, but you 
just moind me, if that there G.O.C. was along 'ere 
in the trenches, a-swelterin' and a-sweatin*, whoi, 'e'd 
know what it was, and 'e'd be for gettin' along with 
the business. 'E ain't afraid, not 'arf! But well, 
what's 'e after?" 

His comrade coughed, a satirical, nasty, impatient 
sort of cough, and again dashed the sweat from his 
forehead. 

''That's just what I was askin' you," he said, con- 
tempt in his voice, deep displeasure, disgust if you 
will, for indeed these two gallant fellows were eager 
to be up and doing, while inertia told upon their 
nerves and their tempers. '' That's the very question. 
What is he doin' this 'ere G.O.C, a-keepin' us swel- 
tering away in these 'ere trenches. Now you've 
wondered what you'd do if you was 'im. I'll tell yer 
what I'd do if I wore 'is shoes, and 'ad control of the 
troops what's with us. I'd " 

A Turkish shell plumping into the sand just a yard 
in front of that parapet somewhat disturbed the de- 
liberations of these two arm-chair (that is, arm-chair 
for the moment) soldiers, for it burst with a splitting, 
thundering, shaking report, and promptly blew in the 
face of the trench on them. It was a couple of very 
angry, somewhat startled, and very disgusted in- 
dividuals who finally scooped their way out of the 
mass which had almost buried them, and again sat 
down on the firestep of the trench to compare notes 
on the occurrence. But they had little time to con- 



2i8 On the Road to Bagdad 

tinue, for that shell seemed to have been the signal 
for more active operations. Turkish guns belched 
missiles at the British, while British guns answered 
them with a vengeance. Then those horsemen career- 
ing out on the left flank of the Expeditionary Force 
were seen to be making off at an angle which would 
carry them beyond the flank of the Turks, and 
threaten to surround them. A movement, too, was 
seen amongst the men in the British trenches. 
Officers' whistles sounded shrilly, while hoarse com- 
mands were shouted. 

*' Make ready to leave trenches! Fix bayonets!" 
From the far end of the line numbers of figures 
suddenly clambered over the parapet of the trench 
and darted forward, only to throw themselves on the 
ground when they had covered perhaps a hundred 
yards, and before the Turkish rifles or machine-guns 
could get at them. Then the same movement was 
repeated farther down, in another spot, and in another, 
and another. In an incredibly short space of time 
rifle-firing had become furious and unceasing, and 
had been transferred from the line of British trenches 
to those figures lying out in the open. Nor were 
they left there for long unsupported, for once more 
the movement commenced, and other groups dashed 
out to join them, while British guns thundered on 
unceasingly. In this way, little by little, by short 
rushes, the infantry advanced towards the enemy 
trenches, while the cavalry and the naval sloops had 
also come into action. Turks could be seen moving 
to their right flank to oppose the former, while the 
sloops steamed higher up the river till they outflanked 
the Turks, and could enfilade their position. 



Esbul, the Armenian 219 

It was at this stage that Geoff was again sent out 
with a message, and, taking the precaution to leave 
Sultan well in the rear — for to have ridden him forward 
would have been to court disaster — he made a dash 
for the trenches, and from there to the line of the 
swarthy Mahrattas stretched out in the open. On 
the way he had delivered his message, and the temp- 
tation to join his old regiment and to hunt up his 
chum Philip was too strong for him. Creeping and 
rolling he finally came upon that young hopeful 
beside his platoon, and lay down near him. 

''How d'you like it?" Philip shouted at him, for 
the rattle of rifles drowned the ordinary voice. ''I 
hope they won't keep us out here very long, for those 
Turkish soldiers are fairly good marksmen, and it is 
hard luck for men to be shot whilst lying here and 
doing nothing. Looks as though we were going to 
charge the trenches." 

'' That's the order," Geoff told him. '' We're near 
enough already, and if you look towards the enemy's 
position you'll see that some of them are already 
retiring." 

A glance over the figures of his men showed Phil 
indeed numbers of Turks crawling from their trenches 
and fleeing across country. Farther back a team of 
battery horses swung in behind a gun position, and, 
raising his glasses, Geoff watched as the gunners 
endeavoured to hitch the team to their weapon and 
pull it out of its dug-out. But it was an operation 
they never accomplished, for a shell sailing over the 
position spluttered shrapnel in all directions, putting 
the better part of the team out of action and scattering 
the gunners. 



220 On the Road to Bagdad 

^* Charge!" 

Whistles shrieked down the line. Officers sprang 
to the front of their companies, while British and 
Indians, helmeted and turbaned figures, leapt to their 
feet, and, with bayonets advanced, dashed across 
the space which intervened between themselves and 
the enemy positions. Hoarse guttural shouts left the 
throats of those British warriors who had come to 
Mesopotamia, while the higher-pitched cheers of the 
Indians mingled with them; and then, reserving their 
breath for the assault, heedless of the bullets which 
picked out numbers of them, and caused men to roll 
and bowl over, and which laid them out stark and 
stiff on the desert, the men went on in silence — that 
British silence, that dour, cold, remorseless calm 
which before now on many a field has scared the 
enemies of Great Britain. But it only lasted a few 
moments, until, in fact, the Turkish trenches were 
reached, and the men were in amongst the enemy. 
Yes, in amongst the enemy, for the Turks, to do them 
justice, had not all of them deserted their position. 
Many clung to their trenches with reckless bravery, and 
now crossed bayonets with men of the Expeditionary 
Force, with reeling, shouting men from the good 
County of Dorset, with tall, lithe, dusky sons of the 
race of Mahrattas, with sweltering, cursing white men, 
with dusky subjects of the King-Emperor who leapt 
at their enemies with the swift bound of a tiger. 
There was the crash of steel, the rattle and thud of 
rifle-butt coming against rifle-butt; there were yells 
and screams; there was the dull ugly sound of the 
bayonet-point as it struck some metal object — perhaps 
a button — and, sheering from it, went silently through 



Esbul, the Armenian 221 

its victim. There were the groans of bayoneted Turks; 
there was the cough of men whose chests had been 
transfixed, and whose lungs were flooded with blood. 

It was a charge, a charge home, a charge which 
swept the British force into and over the enemy- 
trenches, which hurled the Turks from their line, and 
which won a position for our men which, earlier in 
the day, the German officers had considered impreg- 
nable. Yes, German officers, white-faced sons of the 
Teutonic Empire, officers of the Kaiser, sent to carry 
his mission of world-wide conquest into Turkey in 
Asia, lay still and cold and white, their sightless eyes 
staring up at the burning sun which hung like a 
blazing orb above them. 

It was war, this scene; and what was left when the 
howls and shouts of the soldiers had died down was 
the result of war, as it has been from earliest times, 
with just a few little changes and alterations which 
the growth of knowledge, the advance of science, and, 
in these latter days, the enormous increase in me- 
chanical inventions have brought to it. Men die much 
in the same way, whether they be transfixed by the 
short stabbing sword of one of the old Roman Legion- 
aries or by the bayonet of a British soldier; an arrow 
sent by a cross-bow, or by one of the old bows of 
England, has, or let us say had in the old days, much 
the same effect upon the man it struck as have bullets 
discharged from these-day weapons. A vital part is 
struck, and the man dies, and lies there, looking much 
the same to-day as when Roman Legions traversed 
this very spot in Mesopotamia. 

" An ugly sight," you will say, ** the horrible result 
of men's passions." 



222 On the Road to Bagdad 

War? Yes, the result of war! But war not sought 
by King George or his people. That somewhat 
ghastly scene which Geoff looked upon, once the 
Turkish trenches had been captured, was not the doing 
of Great Britain, of France, of Russia, or of any of 
the Allies. It was the direct result of an ambitious 
policy fostered in Germany, a policy which had thriven 
and grown during forty years or more of ceaseless 
activity, which aimed at world dominance, and which, 
here in Mesopotamia, in France, in Poland, in a thou- 
sand places, was to produce the same and worse 
scenes — scenes of slaughter; scenes where men were 
robbed of their lives — young men who might have 
lived on and been of vast use to their own country, 
and would have done so, no doubt, had the Kaiser 
and his war lords not hatched that conspiracy to 
seize the whole world and bring it into the subjection 
of the Hohenzollerns. 

Philip plumped himself down beside Geoff, and, 
pulling his water-bottle to the front, presented a cup 
of water to him. There was sweat on his brow; his 
face, his hands, his tunic, every part of him, was 
stained with sandy dust, which had been washed into 
little furrows on his face by the perspiration which 
had streamed from his forehead. He was gasping 
still, as was Geoff; his eyes were shining, while a 
glance at the young fellow showed that he was still 
filled with excitement. 

'*We got home," he told his chum, ^'and the 
Mahrattas went in like lions." 

Geoff nodded, and, tossing his head back, drained 
the cup of water. 

**Like lions!" he agreed enthusiastically. *^And 



Esbul, the Armenian 223 

the Dorsets, my boy! Did you hear them? Did 
you hear those boys go in at the Turks? It was 
ter — r — if — ic! Hallo, what's that? Look over 
there!" 

Away on the left they could see British horsemen 
galloping in wide circles to round up fugitives from 
the lines so recently vacated by the enemy, and here 
and there parties of troopers were cutting across the 
desert so as to encircle men who were striking towards 
their left and looked like escaping. And amongst the 
fleeing Turks were some who were mounted, and 
amongst them, no doubt, more than one German 
officer. Geoff had been watching them for a moment, 
and now had his attention attracted to a little group 
clear of the British horsemen just then, and appearing 
to have every chance of getting away safely. Of a 
sudden he saw a horseman burst from the group, 
while shots were fired as he spurred away from the 
others; then a couple from the group swung their 
horses round and set off in pursuit, careless of the 
fact that the fugitive was turning his mount in the 
direction of the British. It was an amazing sight, 
and drew exclamations from many. 

*' What's it mean?" demanded Philip, still puffing 
and blowing after his exertions. 

^' Don't know, but I'm going to see." 

Geoff leapt across the trench, at the bottom of which 
lay many wounded and dead Turks, and sped across 
the open over which our troops had so recently and 
so gallantly advanced. In the distance he caught 
sight of his own fine Arab, of Sultan, and, signalling 
wildly with his hands, managed to attract the atten- 
tion of the syce in charge of him. The man leapt 



224 On the Road to Bagdad 

into the saddle in an instant, and before many minutes 
had passed, Sultan, blowing and stamping and fidget- 
ing, was pulled up within a few feet of our hero. To 
change places with the syce was the work of only 
a few moments, and in a trice Geoff was off again, 
and leaping his mount over the trenches sped on 
towards that horseman who had so strangely and so 
inexplicably burst his way from the group escaping 
from the British. He had a mile or more to cover, 
but Sultan made nothing of it. Indeed, in a little 
while Geoff had drawn quite close to the man, and, 
swinging Sultan round, was soon riding beside him. 
At the same time he turned, and drawing his revolver 
emptied it at the two men still pursuing. Whether 
his bullets went wide of their mark or narrowly 
escaped meeting a billet he never knew, but their 
effect was excellent, for the men pulled in their horses, 
and, having fired in return without result, swung their 
mounts round and galloped off to join their com- 
panions. 

*'Who are you?" demanded Geoff, pulling in 
Sultan. 

** An Armenian, Excellency." 

*' And why with the Turks? You are not a soldier," 
said Geoff, noticing that the man was in civilian 
costume. 

** A soldier? No, Excellency. A messenger merely, 
one who bears a missive to the British." 

'^Then a friend of the British, eh?" asked Geoff. 

** A friend? Yes, always. In the service of a 
British Pasha these many years. A friend, at heart, 
of England." 

Geoff stared at the man, and then, setting Sultan in 




C834 



"GEOFF TLRXKD, AND, URAWJNG HIS REVOLVER, K.MPllED IT AT 
THE TWO MEN STILL PURSUING " 



Esbul, the Armenian 225 

motion, rode along, the man trotting his horse beside 
him. 

^' A message, eh?" asked Geoff after a while, having 
pondered deeply. ** For the British, you say?" 

*' For the British, Excellency, for any whom it may 
concern. News of an English pasha who came but 
lately to this country." 

** Oh, whom? The name? For whom is the message 
intended?" 

*' Excellency, I was to find the British force invading 
Mesopotamia. I was to hand my missive over to an 
officer of distinction, and I was to search amongst the 
officers who came from India for one, a youth, who 
might be with them." 

'^ His name?" asked Geoff, now beginning to tremble 
with excitement, for who could this white man be who 
had sent a message? Who could the pasha be to 
whom this Armenian referred? Could it be Joe 
Douglas, his guardian, that excellent fellow who had 
befriended him these many years, and who had so 
recently gone on an expedition to Asiatic Turkey, and 
who, after his custom — a custom that Geoff knew so 
well — had disappeared entirely? There was no news 
from Joe Douglas these many weeks past, not a line, 
not a chirrup from him. But could this be his mes- 
senger? If so, Geoff should know him. Swinging 
round in his saddle he gripped the man's arm and 
stared into his face. A moment later he uttered a 
shout — a shout of happiness. 

*' You are Esbul, eh?" he asked. 

** And you, Excellency, you are Keith Pasha." 

**The message; give it to me," demanded Geoff 
fiercely, worked up by the occasion. ^*Yes, I am 

(08S4) 15 



226 On the Road to Bagdad 

Keith Pasha, and your message comes from Douglas 
Pasha, my dear guardian." 

It was with a shout of joy that he recognized the 
handwriting of that gallant soldier who had been as a 
father to him, and tearing the missive open he read it 
with an eagerness which was plainly apparent to the 
man who had brought it. 

** If this reaches the hand of my ward, Geoff Keith, 
or of any British officer, let him give information of 
my position to the Commanding Officer of any ex- 
pedition which may come from India to Mesopotamia. 
I have little time or space or means whereby to write 
a long message, and therefore must compress my 
information. I am a prisoner lying in a cell within 
a Turkish fort to the north and west of Bagdad, but 
where precisely I cannot say, nor do I know the name 
of this fortress. I was captured by a German named 
von Hildemaller. His agents trapped me at a place 
I sought outside Bagdad, and seized me. But for a 
friendly Turk they would have murdered me on the 
spot, and, as it is, they handed me over a prisoner. 
I make no complaint, but if the expedition advances 
towards Bagdad, let it make an effort to relieve me." 

Geoff gasped, and re-read the message — devoured it 
in fact — for it was good to hear that Joe Douglas was 
alive, even though he were a prisoner. 

*'Tell me, Esbul," he said at last, while they con- 
tinued to ride on slowly side by side, ^' this message — 
you received it from Douglas Pasha himself? You 
know where he is imprisoned?" 

*'Notso, Excellency, not so, Keith Pasha! This 
man — this devil, I call him~this German, the smiling, 
sweet-faced von Hildemaller. Ah! how I know the man, 



Esbul, the Armenian 227 

how I hate, detest, and fear him — he is too strong, too 
cunning, too artful to allow your servant or any other 
friend of Douglas Pasha to know of his whereabouts. 
Only von Hildemaller and Turks in high places can 
tell of the prison in which my master is shut up." 

*' But then," said Geoff quickly, *'how — how came 
you to get the message?" 

'' It is shortly told. Excellency. There is a Jew, an 
Armenian Jew, in the city of Bagdad, a great admirer 
of my master, an old and trusted friend of his, who has 
been ever loyal to him." 

'' I know the man," said Geoff; **tall, angular, and 
bony; a man who sits in the market-place and sells 
embroidery." 

"The same," said Esbul; '*a wonderful man, who 
knows secrets that are hidden from many of us. He it 
was who brought the message to me in Bagdad, and 
bade me bear it in this direction. Yet, clever as this 
old Armenian Jew is, he too is ignorant of the place 
in which Douglas Pasha is imprisoned." 

"But could help one to discover it," cried Geoff, 
still holding the message in his hand. 

" Who knows, Excellency? This Jew, this Benshi, 
as they call him, is a man of parts, and, seeing that he 
is a friend of the pasha, he will surely help. But 
remember. Excellency, Turkey is now at war with 
your people; even I, riding towards your camp, and 
coming upon the Turks in this position, was seized 
upon. There was no time in which to cross-examine 
me, to find out why I came and whither, and for that 
reason, when the retreat began, they — the Turkish 
officers, and with them some Germans — were carrying 
me off with them. But you, Keith Pasha, they would 



228 On the Road to Bagdad 

know at once as an enemy, while I might pass, as 
indeed I have, through the country." 

Geoff smiled at him, a smile of assurance. 

**You forget, Esbul," he said, ''you forget that 
I too have been in Mesopotamia with Douglas Pasha, 
that I speak your tongue and Turkish like a native, 
and that a fez or Arab clothing can make a wonderful 
difference. Why indeed should I not make this 
attempt to relieve my guardian? Tell me, Esbul, if in 
your case your father were imprisoned by some enemy, 
and there lay danger and difficulty between you and 
him and his prison, would you then count the danger 
and the difficulty and allow them to deter you from an 
attempt at his rescue?" 

The tall, lithe young Armenian brought his hand 
with a sounding flap against the neck of his horse, 
while he gave vent to a sharp exclamation. 

"Master," he said emphatically, "I would not! 
There are many who count the Armenian people as 
a shameless, effeminate race, who look upon the 
denizens of Erzerum and the surrounding country in 
which our race dwells as beneath contempt, unfit for 
this world, who hate us — and who thereby show some 
jealousy of us. But yet, peace-loving as we are, there 
lies deep down in the hearts of my brothers a source 
of courage — courage which, should the opportunity 
present itself, will spur them to fight the Turk and 
attempt to throw off his governance. Yet the hour 
might never come ; and, while we wait, massacres take 
place, and indeed, even now, my people are being 
slaughtered. Yes, my master, if there be danger and 
difficulty in a task such as the one you mention, it 
should not perturb you. For listen, have I, the 



Esbul, the Armenian 229 

humble servant of Douglas Pasha, not braved many 
dangers in my journey hither? And he, though a good 
and liberal master to me, is yet not my father." 

Geoff brought his hand down on the Armenian's 
back with a smack, and smiled encouragingly at him. 

"You've done splendidly, Esbul," he told him, 
**and you shall see that I will make the most of this 
message. Now let us make our way to Head-quarters." 

Still riding slowly side by side, so as to give their 
horses an opportunity of cooling, they crossed the 
desert over which the Turks had retired, in many cases 
so precipitately, passing many dead and wounded. 
Then they rode their horses over the vacated trenches 
— that is, vacated by living men, and now tenanted 
only by the dead who had so bravely held them. 
Beyond, there was the space across which those 
British and Indian troops had come hurtling in their 
mad charge, as they threw themselves toward the 
enemy trenches. A little while ago the desert here 
had been dotted with figures, some lying prone and 
stiff and stark, while others were sitting up and look- 
ing about them, and others, yet again, crawling to- 
wards the position now captured by their comrades. 
A little farther and Geoff and his companion reached 
the broad belt of palms which clung to either side of 
the broad stretch of the Shatt-el-Arab, to find horses 
picketed in the shade, munching contentedly at their 
daily rations, to see carts of every description parked 
beneath the trees, while, in the open, motor ambulance- 
wagons purred their way to and fro, as they brought 
in the wounded or went off across the hard, sandy 
desert in search of others. And in a retired part, just 
beyond the wagon-park, they came upon and halted 



230 On the Road to Bagdad 

beside a huge tent, over which flew the flag of the 
Red Cross. British and Indian orderlies were moving 
briskly about, while through the open sides of the 
tent Geoff caught a glimpse of stretchers laid in rows, 
and upon them bandaged soldiers lying very con- 
tentedly, out of the heat of the sun and with the cool 
breeze playing in upon them. And out in front of 
the tent, with the shadows of the trees cast across it, 
stood a table whereon lay a wounded man in the 
hands of the surgeon. Geoff shuddered, and then 
looked again; looked and admired the calmness and 
unconcern of the officers attending to that wounded 
man, their dexterity, the swiftness and silence of the 
orderlies who assisted; and then, catching the eye 
of the wounded man himself — one of the Dorsets — he 
returned with a grin the wink with which that incor- 
rigible individual greeted him. 

Geoff turned away, and, dropping from his saddle, 
hunted up his friend of the Head-quarters Staff, to 
whom he presented his message. 

*'Hum! Douglas Pasha! Glad to know that he 
is alive. But in prison; eh, Keith! And he's your 
guardian!" 

For a while the officer looked at the message, and 
from the message to Keith, studying his every expres- 
sion, and then back again to the message, pursing up 
his lips and wrinkling his brows thoughtfully. 

** Of course," he said, ^' if this expedition fights its 
way to the neighbourhood of Bagdad it might give 
us an opportunity of relieving the Major; but then 
Bagdad happens to be far away." 

^^Yes, sir," agreed Geoff, vainly attempting to 
make his voice sound jubilant and hopeful. 



Esbul, the Armenian 231 

** A long way," repeated the officer, **and we may 

never cover the distance; in that case But of 

course," he added thoughtfully, looking again at 
Geoff, *'of course, seeing that you know the country 
and can speak the language, you might — eh? — you 
might make the attempt yourself, if you could get 
permission. But such permission is out of the ques- 
tion now, and you must leave it to the future." 

And leave it to the future Geoff had to be content to 
do, though by night and by day he still remembered 
that message, and indeed discussed it and a prospec- 
tive journey to Bagdad threadbare with his chum, 
Philip, and with Esbul. 

''Of course I shall go the first moment I get the 
opportunity," he told them both. 

''And, with you, Esbul," the Armenian answered 
him immediately. 

"And what about me?" asked Philip. "Ain't I 
good enough for such a job? Don't I begin to know 
Mesopotamia by heart by this time?" 

"We'll see," rejoined Geoff enigmatically. "If 
there's a chance though — well, you may be sure that 
I'll go, and take anyone I can with me." 




^Z^tAj^A^irJ^ 



CHAPTER XIII 

An Amphibious Expedition ' 

*^ Garden of Eden, indeedl" growled Philip, some 
few weeks after that fine combat in which the Indian 
Expeditionary Force had proved so successful, and had 
cleared the road to Kurnah. ^^ Where's the garden?'' 

The disdainful Mahratta subaltern looked round 
him from the doorstep of the house in which he and 
a few of his brother officers had taken up their 
quarters, and to which at that moment his chum 
Geoff had paid a visit. And well might the youthful 
and disgusted Phil have turned up his nose, have- 
scoffed, and have shown the most infinite displeasure, 
for rains had set in since the occupation of Kurnah, 
and the whole country-side was soaked. That smooth, 
sandy, and gravelly desert was covered a foot deep in 
sticky, sandy mud, different from any mud encoun- 
tered elsewhere ; mud which clung to the boots, which 
piled up on the feet of those who trudged about the 
camp, and who must needs therefore carry about with 
them so much extra weight. 

A hot, stifling mist hung over the country and 
blotted out the River Tigris. For, bear in mind, the 
Expedition had now advanced beyond the junction of 
the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers, and had camped 
on the banks of the latter. Time was, centuries be- 



An Amphibious Expedition 233 

fore, when these two historic rivers had come together 
in the neighbourhood of Kurnah — the little town now 
captured — where the country-side was drained, and 
fertile, and productive, and where, no doubt, date- 
palms had offered grateful shade, and patches of 
green had relieved the dull, dirty yellow of the desert. 
But that was in days gone by. Now, a change in the 
course of the River Euphrates — a river which, like 
many a one in China, changes its course in the most 
fickle and unforeseen manner — had cut a channel for 
itself farther to the south, where it now met the Tigris. 
*^ Garden indeed!" The place was a muddy swamp, 
set amidst the most depressing surroundings. 

*^Not so very cheerful," Geoff had to agree, as he 
puffed at a cigarette and smiled at the indignant 
Philip; ^^but then we're campaigning, my dear 
fellow, and soldiers should take things as they come, 
and not grouse and grumble." 

*'Shut up!" Philip told him. ** None of your 
Head-quarters airs for me! What's doing?" 

It was always the way with Philip to demand of 
his chum what movements might be expected, as if 
indeed, though attached to the Head-quarters, Geoff 
was likely to be in the confidence of his seniors. Yet 
he knew something of their intentions at times, and 
knew well enough that further movement was antici- 
pated. 

"You see, it's like this," he told Philip, there being 
no one else about. **The party we sent off along 
the Karun River and the pipe-line into Persia have 
seized Ahwaz, and have secured the oil-supply for 
our battleships. Just look at this map I am making 
in the mud! Rather a good place for drawing one, 



234 On the Road to Bagdad 

ain't it? Now, here's the Tigris and Kurnah, and 
there are the swamps that we went into with Com- 
mander Houston. By the way, glad to hear that he's 
doing well. He's on his way to India now, and good 
reports have been received about him. Well, there 
are the marshes." 

''Where our good friend the Turk did us the 
honour of joining us, eh!" grinned Philip. "What 
an adventure that was, Geoff! Wish we could have 
more of 'em!" 

It was Geoff's turn to tell his friend to "Shut 
up!" 

"Don't interrupt!" he said irritably, thrusting the 
point of his stick deep into the mud, and pointing 
impatiently to the map which he had been outlining. 
"Let a fellow get on with his description. There's 
the Tigris." 

"You've said that already," grumbled Philip. 

"Well, I say it again! There it is!" 

"Yes, the Tigris, we all know that! Put a T 
against it!" 

That made Geoff laugh, and obediently he sketched 
a huge T in the sand and mud before him. 

" Right oh ! " he said. ' ' Tigris.*" 

"Get on," growled Philip. "Here are the marshes,'* 
and bending swiftly he scraped a row of lines in the 
mud. "Marshes — M — there we are, and just about 
here, I suppose, will be the spot where our dear friend 
the Turk joined us." 

He dug a finger deep into the mud in the midst of 
the patch which he had designated "marshes", and 
then, standing up, grinned irritatingly at Geoff. 

"We know all about that," he went on. "T for 




All Amphibious Expedition 235 

Tigris, M for marshes! What next? K for Kurnah, 
I suppose." 

^Mt's there — K!" said Geoff, laughing, for who 
could allow himself to be irritated with Philip? ''K 
for Kurnah, and B for Basra. There's the head of the 
Persian Gulf, and there's Ahwaz. Now let's move 
up this line we call the Tigris. Perhaps a hundred 
miles up there is a place called Amara, from which 
the enemy can easily reinforce the troops they have 
in front of Ahwaz; there's nothing to prevent them 
but marshes and desert, and seeing that they've lived 
all their lives in such surroundings they know all 
about them. So the next move is there, to seize 
Amara, and make doubly secure that our pipe-line 
cannot be cut or damaged. 

As a matter of fact, the sketch-map which Geoff 
had drawn in the mud for the edification of his chum, 
was not entirely complete or informative, and we 
hasten at this point to supplement the information he 
had given. Had he prolonged the line which repre- 
sented the Tigris River farther to the north and west, 
as it bent in that direction, he would, when he had 
covered sufficient space to indicate perhaps another 
hundred miles of desert country, have come to a place 
called Kut- el -Amara, where at that very moment 
Turks were in force; and, arrived at Kut, he would 
no doubt have carried on the line, making it twirl 
and twist in many directions — for above Kut-el- 
Amara the Tigris winds considerably and is most 
difficult of navigation — to Bagdad, that city where 
Major Joseph Douglas had taken up his quarters, 
and where the onset of this huge world war had found 
him an alien in a nest of enemies. 



()!;<• p 



236 



On the Road to Bagdad 



Going farther, Geoff's stick would have scratched 
the line in an almost due southerly direction till it 
struck that broad patch which Philip had contemp- 
tuously designated marshes. Unknown then to the 
leaders of the Indian Expeditionary Force, a channel 
runs from Kut-el-Amara down to the head of those 
marshes into the midst of which Geoff and his chum 
had so recently ventured, and ends at a spot on the 
River Euphrates where that broad, sluggish, and ever- 
changing stream plunges into the mass of sandy and 
reed-covered islets which form the marshes at Nas- 
iriyeh, where at that very moment Turks were collect- 
ing. Not, let us add, that the Indian Expeditionary- 
Force was entirely ignorant of their situation, for, in- 
deed, the Intelligence Branch, thanks to the capture of 
that fat Turkish officer, had considerable news of a 
force of Turks collecting at Nasiriyeh. Yet they did 
not know of the Kut-el-Hai, connecting Nasiriyeh 
and Kut-el-Amara, and therefore were not aware that 
the Turks could reinforce the garrison already col-|i 
lected at the head of the marshes, and were at that 
moment hastily doing so. This force, joined by 
numbers of Arabs and tribesmen, was even then 
moving down beside the marshes, following their 
edge, and taking advantage of the drier parts where 
the desert was not submerged, their objective being 
Shaiba, hardly ten miles to the south-west of Basra. 
Information of their coming reached the Head- 
quarters of the division within a few hours, in fact, at 
the moment when Geoff and Philip were so eagerly dis- 
cussing the situation, and the blare of bugles, and the 
stir in the camp, immediately gave occasion to Philip 
to demand once more of his friend: '* What's up?" 



,1 



^ 






rrl 








J An Amphibious Expedition 237 

*^ Remember that old Turk?" asked Geoff. 

«'Not 'arf!" grinned Philip. 

'•And the tale he gave us of the Turks at the head 
of the marshes?" 

"Get along with it!" Philip told him. 

"Well, the enemy are said to be now at Shaiba, 
within striking distance of Basra, and we are sending 
back to reinforce our troops there." 

" Mahrattas?" asked Philip eagerly. 

"Can't say," came the short answer, 
know precious soon. So long, Philip! Pm bus 

Geoff was, as a matter of fact, frantically busy; 
busy, and so engaged in carrying messages, that he 
might, had he been inclined to arrogance, have sud- 
denly formed the idea that he was the most important 
individual with the division. Dashing backwards 
and forwards on Sultan's back, he had hardly time 
to think of the Mahrattas, of Philip, or of anything 
else but his present duties; and it was not until 
some days later that the two met in the neighbour- 
hood of Shaiba. 

" Somewhere about twenty thousand Turks opposite 
us," Geoff was able to tell his friend, "and plenty of 
guns. We're moving out to attack them. The beg- 
gars are entrenched at the foot of a slope along a line 
about two miles in length, and their supports occupy 
the high ground behind them. Of course there are 
German officers with them." 

That early morning, was repeated in the neigh- 
bourhood of Shaiba the action which the Indian Expe- 
ditionary Force had fought on its way to Kurnah; for 
the troops advanced over the open, there being not a 
vestige of cover, while the cavalry manoeuvred towards 



238 On the Road to Bagdad 

the flank of the enemy; a guard of Arab horsemen, 
and amongst them the chief whose acquaintance we 
have already made, supporting the regular cavalry 
and making ready for a dash upon the enemy. 

To hardened campaigners, as Geoff and Philip had 
now become, the roar of guns, the splash of shells, 
and the detonations about them made hardly any dif- 
ference ; they were as cool as cucumbers, and went on 
with their work as though nothing were happening. 
And gradually, as the hours flew on, Indian and 
British — those gallant troops who had invaded Meso- 
potamia — advanced upon the Turks by little rushes, 
advanced, and then lay down, throwing up a parapet 
of sand in front of them to give them some protection, 
while British guns thundered in the rear and plumped 
shells into the Turkish trenches. And then that long 
blast was repeated, that shout down the line of attack- 
ing troops, the shrill shriek of officers' whistles, and 
the charge which was to carry our men into the 
enemy's position had begun. With those shouts 
there mingled the shrieks of hundreds of Arab horse- 
men — those excited individuals manoeuvring at that 
moment towards the flank of the Turkish trenches. 
Their shrill cries could be heard right across the field 
of battle, while their robed figures, their waving arms, 
and their gesticulations could be observed from the 
far distance. Waiting till the British troops had 
plunged into the Turkish trenches, and until the 
enemy were broken and were fleeing, the Arabs burst 
like a bolt towards the open, and, swinging in behind 
those trenches, went charging amongst the enemy, 
cutting them down, shouting as they rode, riding over 
the unfortunate subjects of the Sultan and those schem- 



4yf /-■'•' h/uM^yuJ (^^.^dC^K 

An Amphibious E^^pedition 239 

ing German officers who had come to train the enemy. 
One moment there was Bedlam — shouts and shrieks, 
the rattle of rifles, the sharp splutter of machine-guns 
and the deeper roar of cannon — and the next there 
was almost complete silence, save for the distant calls 
of those fierce Arab horsemen wreaking vengeance 
upon the Turks. 

" And now commences the march on Amara," Geoff 
was able to tell his friend a few days later. '' We've 
got the Turks running, and I expect the G.O.C. will 
make the most of it. A sharp and rapid advance 
might allow us to capture Amara with little opposi- 
tion, and then we should be firmly posted on the river 
and able to take up a defensive position." 

As a matter of fact, the capture of Amara was, in its 
way, a startling and most dramatic affair, and proved, 
if proof were necessary, that the nerves of the Turks 
had been considerably shaken. For though the ad- 
vance-guard of the Expeditionary Force advancing 
towards Amara was of but slender proportions, it met 
detachments of Turkish troops coming towards it, 
troops anxious to surrender, so that the town of Amara 
was seized without so much as a shot being fired, and 
was promptly occupied by the British. 

But the task of the Expeditionary Force to Mesopo- 
tamia was not yet completed, not by a great deal, for 
now there came news of that channel, the Kut-el- 
Hai, leading from Kut-el-Amara to Nasiriyeh, and it 
became necessary to seize both points before our 
troops could have any security. Preparations were 
therefore made to attack both places, and, to the 
delight of Geoff and Philip, they were both detailed 
to accompany an expedition, designed to strike at 



240 On the Road to Bagdad 

Nasiriyeh, through those marshes which they had 
already penetrated. 

Meanwhile, to bring our tale up to date, one needs 
to mention that, as the months had gone by, as that 
trench line had been dug firmly across Belgium and T 
France, and had held up the advance of the Germans » 
on Calais and Paris, the Russian line too had checked' >^| 
the enemy, had advanced across Poland and into \^ 
Galicia, and was within an ace of invading Austria- -^ ., 
Hungary. In the Caucasus, a Turkish army corps %^ I 
had been severely dealt with by the Tsar's forces \\ 
called to that inhospitable region; while an ambitious - • 
if reckless attempt on the Suez Canal, on the part of \^ 
Turkey, had met with dismal failure. 

The taking of Amara, in fact, coincides with the 
period when Britain had recovered from the first 
shock of this sudden and unexpected conflict, when 
she was training those hundreds of thousands of 
volunteers who had answered the call of their country, 
and when, while fighting beside the French in France, 
she still had troops sufficient to attack the enemy 
elsewhere.* Even as those gallant Indian and British 
troops with the Mesopotamia Force charged down 
upon the trenches at Shaiba, other British troops — 
men from England, from Australia, and New Zealand 
— were gathering in the neighbourhood of Egypt. 
Indeed; within a few days there occurred a landing 
on the Peninsula of Gallipoli, a most desperate and 
gallant undertaking, which launched Great Britain 
and France into a conflict the difficulty of which was 
stupendous, and the result of which cannot be said 
to have been altogether a failure, though it failed to 
gain for us the capture of those forts which line the 



An Amphibious Expedition 241 

approach to Constantinople. A conflict, in fact, abor- 
tive, as it proved, yet one which struck the Turks an 
exceedingly heavy blow, and set up a record of bravery 
and determination on the part of British and French 
which will never be exceeded. 

Was there ever such an expedition as that which 
set out for Nasiriyeh? 

^' Queer, ain't it?" remarked Philip, on the point 
of embarking with his chum Geoff on board the 
steam-launch which they had captured from the enemy 
in the midst of the same marshes whither they were 
now bound. *' Did you ever see such a collection of 
boats and fellows? and the navy look as though they 
meant to make a race of the business." 

There was a string of bellums — the shallow light 
craft common to that part of Mesopotamia, and used 
by the natives for progress through the marshes — 
towing at the tail end of the steam-launch — bellums 
crammed with British soldiers and with Indians. 
There were motor-boats near at hand, pushing their 
busy way across the Shatt-el-Arab ; there were shal- 
low-draft steamers brought from India, cranky, dilapi- 
dated, rusty vessels, which looked as though they had 
done long service, and had arrived at a time when they 
were fit for the scrap-heap only, or to be relegated to 
long and continuous rest. As a matter of fact, many 
of these curious craft — long since abandoned as useless 
by their owners — had been brought across from India, 
surviving in a most extraordinary manner a voyage 
which might have been expected to smash them to 
pieces, and to shake their already quivering sides so 
severely that if they had been swamped, if the ocean 
had poured through many a crevice, it would have 

(0 834) 16 



242 On the Road to Bagdad 

been a wonder to no one. And there they were, 
at anchor in the river, their decks packed with men 
of the navy — men in duck white or in khaki, grin- 
ning fellows, who shouted to their comrades of the 
army. 

** Cheer oh, navy'll be in first!" they bellowed. 
*' We're in for the Turkish stakes, and back ourselves 
to beat the army." 

What a scene it was when the expedition set off at 
length! The lighter craft finding their way through 
the marshes, and steering an irregular course amongst 
the muddy islets, whilst the vessels drawing deeper 
water ploughed their way along the uncertain course 
of the Euphrates, and stemmed the gentle flood down 
which Phil and Geoff had steamed with their Turkish 
prisoner. Little tails of open boats trailed at the stern 
of every steamer, while not a few, manned by natives, 
with soldiers aboard them, were paddled into the 
marshes farther afield on the outskirts of this huge 
inundation. There were other troops wading knee- 
deep, all with the one objective — Nasiriyeh and the 
Turkish camp. Perhaps never before had such an 
amazingly curious, amphibious expedition been under- 
taken, and it is quite certain that never before had 
British and Indian sailors and soldiers enjoyed a thing 
more hugely. 

**A regular sort of mud lark," Phil called out as 
the launch ran on a submerged bank of mud, and 
came to an abrupt halt, causing the bellum towing 
nearest to her to collide violently with her stern and 
capsize promptly. There were roars of laughter as 
the men fell into the water and got to their feet again, 
dripping, and standing there with the water hardly 



An Amphibious Expedition 243 

higher than their knees, grimacing and shaking them- 
selves like dogs. 

*'A11 overboard!" cried Geoff, who was in com- 
mand of the launch. ''There's no use in trying to 
pole her off, for she's hard and fast. Overboard with 
you!" 

Pulling his long boots off and his breeches higher 
up his legs, he was over the side in a twinkling, 
while the crew, enjoying the experience amazingly, 
followed him, Phil helping to set an example. 

''Now, all together, boys!" shouted Geoff. "Pull 
her off! Pull her back! That's done it; she's 
moving!" 

Not once, but half a dozen times, in the next two or 
three days, were they forced to extricate themselves 
from a similar sort of situation by similar methods. 
For, let us explain, there was no opportunity to take 
careful account of the obstacles before them, to steer 
a slow and cautious course, and to make a complete 
reconnaissance of the route they were to follow. 
Under ordinary conditions, with time at their dis- 
posal, Geoff would have steered his launch at a placid 
pace, and would have avoided enclosed waters where 
islands of mud abounded; but now, with this expe- 
dition, it was a case of each man for himself, of push 
ahead all the time. It was a race, in fact, a friendly 
race, between the army and the navy, each service 
vying with the other in its efforts to push onward, 
and each secretly determined to get to the goal before 
the other. 

" If we don't look out we shall be running our 
heads into a hornets' nest," Geoff cried irritably, when, 
for the fifth time at least, he and his crew had had to 



244 On the Road to Bagdad 

leap into the shallow water and pull their vessel free of 
a mud-bank. ^' This sort of headlong course will not 
help us to beat the enemy, but will give them an 
enormous opportunity." 

Whereat Phil grinned. He was one of those in- 
cautious, careless, happy-go-lucky sort of subalterns 
who never think of consequences, and who, perhaps 
for that very reason, so seldom come to grief. Per- 
haps it was a lucky star which always watched over 
Phil's progress, for, in any case, happy-go-lucky 
though he was, careless to an irritating degree, he 
yet had so far come through many a little adventure 
unscathed. 

^'Tremendous opportunity — yes!" he told Geoff. 
*' But — but will they take it? Bet you they're already 
thinking of bolting; for don't forget, my boy, we've 
given them a pretty hard hammering. Besides, an 
expedition such as this is, spread out through the 
marshes, ain't so jolly easy to tackle. You could stop 
a portion, perhaps — say one flank, or the portion in the 
centre of the ground, or rather the water. What do 
you Head-quarters chaps call it? It would be called 
terrain if it was a question of land operations, and I 
don't happen to know the term under these conditions. 
But that's what might happen ; one portion of our 
spread-out front might get stopped, but the others 
would push on like blazes! Cheer up, Geoff! It'll 
all come right, and you'll earn promotion yet:" 

It always ended like that with such a fellow as 
Phil, and Geoff, cautious and earnest young officer 
though he was, was forced to laugh uproariously, and 
join in Phil's merriment. And, after all, if caution 
had been thrown to the winds by all of them — which 



An Amphibious Expedition 245 

was far from being the case — caution on his part 
would hardly remedy the situation. Pushing on, 
therefore, and taking the most out of his steam- 
launch, thrashing her across every open strip of water 
till her bow waves washed almost aboard, and until 
the rope to which the bellums were attached was 
drawn like a bow-string, and the unfortunate indi- 
viduals aboard those craft drenched with spray, he 
wriggled his way forward with other boats of the 
expedition, determined to be well in the van at the 
coming conflict. Then, as the dusk fell, and the 
boats tied up or anchored for the night, he selected 
a likely spot towards the edge of the marshes, and 
dropped anchor. Entering a bellum, he went off 
towards one of the bigger craft, aboard which the 
Staff conducting this extraordinary expedition were 
quartered. 

''What's up?" asked Philip on his return, the in- 
evitable question that young officer fired at his com- 
rade. "Of course, everyone knows that we're jolly 
near this Nasiriyeh, so to-morrow there'll be some- 
thing doing, eh?" 

''Com.e over here," Geoff said, nodding towards 
the stern of the vessel. 

''Secrets, eh?" grinned Philip, yet wonderfully 
eager to hear what Geoff had to say. "Now then, 
what's the business?" 

"A forward move to-morrow, as you might expect, 
but before that a reconnaissance." 

"A re — con — nais — sancel Jingo! Ain't that a 
mouthful? Put in simpler language, a sort of scout- 
ing expedition," smiled Philip, sucking furiously at 
a cigarette. 



246 On the Road to Bagdad 

"Just that; an expedition by a small party to dis- 
cover the actual site of the Turkish camp and to hear 
what they are saying." 

"Oh! And — but you don't mean George! 

That would be ripping!" 

Geoff cooled his ardour most brutally. " What 
would be?" he asked curtly enough — coldly, in fact, 
knowing full well what would be the result of such 
action. 

And, indeed, in a moment the hitherto eager and 
impulsive Phil was reduced to a condition almost of 
despair, was grumbling, was far less elated; and 
then, in the dim light which still existed, he caught 
just a glimpse of Geoff's bantering smile, and gripped 
him by the shoulder. 

"So you're pulling my leg, eh? It — it There's 

a job for us to do? Something special?" 

"There is for me. I have orders to make my way 
forward as quickly as possible, and learn all that I can 
of the enemy. Of course, if you cared " 

" Cared !" Phil almost shouted, though Geoff warned 
him instantly to subdue his tone. For let us explain 
that if, during the first stage of this expedition, the 
rush and hurry and scurry of the navy and army had 
been accompanied by cheery calls, by shouts and 
laughter, by whistling and singing for some hours, 
now, at least, silence had been enjoined upon every 
man in the marshes. Orders were given by signs, 
men whispered to one another, while not an un- 
necessary shout came from the vessels of the expe- 
dition. 

"You'll call the enemy down on us," said Geoff 
severely. " Of course you'll come. Everyone knows 



An Amphibious Expedition 247 

that, I more than anyone. We'll take Esbul with us 
to paddle the bellum, and with a little luck and a little 
care I think we shall be able to discover something. 
You see, Phil, we have, as it were, a better chance 
than the other fellows, for we've been in these marshes 
before, and know quite a heap about them." 

Standing aboard the steam-launch, now that dark- 
ness had settled down over the River Euphrates and 
the stagnant marshes stretched out to the south of it, 
one would have found it difficult indeed, on this par- 
ticular night, to imagine that there were other inhabi- 
tants of this inundated area. Broken up as the surface 
of the water was, by innumerable muddy islands, by 
heaped-up patches of sand, and by banks of reeds, it 
was difficult enough even in the daytime to catch a 
full view of any other vessel, and now that the night 
had fallen and hidden the ships entirely not one was 
to be seen, though here and there, in fifty odd places, 
perhaps, the ruddy glow of pipes could be seen as the 
men smoked tranquilly. A gentle hum rose, too, 
above the water and the islets — the hum of voices of 
men of the expedition, men who talked in undertones, 
who giggled and laughed and joked only just above 
a whisper, and who, eager for the success of the 
morrow and for the defeat of the enemy, implicitly 
obeyed the orders which had been issued. 

Geoff stripped off his service-coat and put his belt 
round his shoulder, thus raising his revolver well 
above the water. Pulling off his long boots, he 
donned a pair of tennis shoes — the only change he 
had from the heavy pair he wore during the daytime 
—then, followed by Phil, he stepped into a bellum, 
which had been drawn alongside the steam-launch, 



248 On the Road to Bagdad 

and, pushing away from her, at once felt the thrust of 
Esbul's paddle. 

*' Directly ahead!" he told the Armenian; ''and 
don't stop unless we are brought up by a mud-bank, 
or unless I snap my fingers." 

It was uncannily still all round them, once they had 
got some two hundred yards from the somewhat ir- 
regular position taken up by the expeditionary vessels, 
and banks of reeds and columns of mist seemed to 
spring up out of the darkness at them, to hover round 
them, and to settle right over them in the most ghostly 
and inexplicable manner. Once Geoff snapped his 
fingers with unexpected suddenness, and gripped 
Phil by the wrist to enjoin silence upon him. 

'* Eh?" asked that young officer rather breathlessly 
a few moments later. 

''Thought I saw something," said Geoff. 

"So did I. I thought I saw somebody or some- 
thing half an hour ago. I've thought it every moment 
since we left the steam-launch. Bogies, Geoff?" 

"Not nerves, I hope!" came the cheerful answer. 
" But it's rather uncanny work, ain't it? I could have 
sworn just now that a fellow stood on the edge of an 
island into which we were running, and I snapped 
my fingers; but the way of the boat carried us right 
on to the very point where he was standing, and right 
over it. He had gone though." 

"Like a nasty nightmare!" said Phil. "Let's go 
ahead ; it's cold and chilly here, and takes the courage 
out of a fellow." 

It was perhaps an hour later, when they had slowly 
crept forward towards the Turkish position, and when 
they had caught sight of a glow in the distance — the 



An Amphibious Expedition 249 

glow of camp-fires — over the position occupied by the 
enemy, that the bellum suddenly came to an abrupt 
halt, grinding noisily upon the edge of the desert. 

*'Hard ground," said Geoff. ''Looks as though 
we'd come to the edge of the marsh land, and — and — 
I've thought it for some while, the sky over there 
shows the reflection from camp-fires. We're near 
them, Phil." 

''Then let's get nearer. But how are we to find 
this bellum again, supposing we leave it?" 

That set them cogitating for a few moments while 
they stepped ashore, followed by Esbul, and, lifting 
the bellum clear of the water, carried her into a bank 
of reeds which could be heard rustling beside them. 

" How to find her, that's it!" said Geoff, while the 
respectful Esbul listened. 

"My master," he said of a sudden, for thanks to 
Major Douglas's tuition the man could speak English 
tolerably well. " My master, perhaps were we to re- 
turn from the Turkish camp before the dawn breaks 
these reeds would aid us. There may be other banks ; 
but, on the other hand, there may be no more, and 
thus we should be aided." 

"In any case we've got to chance it," said Geoff 
lightly. " Now, come along, and let's make direct for 
the glow of those camp-fires." 

Stealing away from the place where they had hidden 
their boat, the three crept cautiously but swiftly to- 
wards the enemy's position, and, ascending slowly as 
they went, soon gained a ridge, from which they were 
able to look right down into the camp where the 
Turkish soldiers were concentrated. Lying flat on 
their faces, they were busily engaged in taking full 



250 On the Road to Bagdad 

stock of what they saw, when a sudden exclamation 
came from Esbul. 

'' Excellency, something behind us!" he whispered. 

''Stop! There's someone coming up from the 
Turkish camp," muttered Philip, making a dive for 
his revolver. 

Glancing swiftly in both directions, Geoff was on 
the point of leading his comrades to one side, so as 
to escape the danger of discovery which seemed to 
threaten them, when shouts resounded all about them, 
and in a trice figures dashed up from every direc- 
tion, surrounding the three, and throwing themselves 
upon Geoff and his friends with a swiftness that was 
dramatic. 



CHAPTER XIV 

Captured by the Enemy 

It was with a shout of astonishment that Geoff real- 
ized that he and PhiHp and Esbul were discovered. 
Giving a loud shout of warning, he flung himself 
against a figure bounding towards him, and, having 
no time to seize his revolver, struck out wildly in the 
darkness, and the blow he gave, delivered with all the 
force of which he was capable, meeting with no greater 
resistance than the air, for it shot past the ear of the 
individual at whom it was aimed, caused him to lose 
his balance and to topple over. 

*'Ha! Infidel dog!" 

The man was down upon him in a moment, and, 
seizing GeofPs throat, pinned him to the ground, 
while, within an instant almost, our hero felt the prick 
of the sharp-pointed dagger with which the man 
threatened to transfix him. The sudden pain it caused 
sent a sickly chill all over his body, and then stimu- 
lated him to action. 

*'Get off!" he roared, and, jerking himself over, 
swiftly had the man beneath him. Then, holding the 
arm which wielded the weapon, he dealt the man a 
furious blow between the eyes, and, shaking himself 
free, leapt to the assistance of Philip. 

'^Coming!" he shouted, hearing his chum gasp 

251 



252 On the Road to Bagdad 

and seeing his figure indistinctly in the darkness. 
And then he went down again, for one of the band of 
Turks who had crept so silently towards the three 
figures watching their camp, leapt upon his shoulders 
and bore him, nose down, to the sand. 

*' Infidel dog!" he heard again hissed into his ear. 
** Move, and I strike life out of you. Move, utter a 
word, and I slit your throat from ear to ear." 

It was not very pleasant; indeed, a sharp stab of 
pain in the region of his shoulder-blade sent another 
chill down Geoff s spine, and, together with the in- 
creased weight which now held him so firmly to the 
sand, helped to discourage further efforts. He was 
cornered, he knew ; common sense told him that there 
were many of the enemy about, that quite half a dozen 
of them were already seated upon his body, his legs, 
and his arms, that further resistance was useless, was 
madness in fact, and could end in only one way — in 
sudden death for himself and Philip and Esbul. 

*' Right!" he gasped, spluttering and blowing the 
sand out of his mouth. ^' We surrender!" 

''Ah! the dog speaks Turkish, eh! Pull him to 
his feet; let us see him." 

It was another voice that spoke, the voice of a 
Turkish officer, and at once those six lusty individuals 
who had thrown themselves on Geoff, and who had 
almost squeezed the life out of him, jerked him to his 
feet and held him in an erect position. Had they not 
done so, indeed, he would have stumbled and fallen, 
for, though the contest had been but a short one, the 
struggle, whilst it lasted, had been terrific : the efforts 
he had made to throw off those men, his kicks and 
plunges, and the blows he had endeavoured to aim 



Captured by the Enemy 253 

had taken it out of Geoff in the most startling manner. 
He was gasping for breath now, sweat was pouring 
from his face, whilst his knees shook and refused to 
support him. 

''So, infidel dog, you are one of the British who 
have dared to invade our country!" 

A dusky figure seemed to rise up in front of Geoff, 
and, approaching quite close to him, thrust a heavily- 
moustached face close to his and peered at him in the 
darkness. So close indeed was the man that his breath 
blew on Geoff's face, and, acting as a tonic as it were, 
almost stimulated him to further action. But again 
discretion, common sense, told him that to renew the 
struggle would be futile. ''Better wait till another 
time," he told himself, gasping in the face of the 
Turkish officer — spluttering, indeed, for still sand 
remained in his mouth, whilst his nostrils were tickled 
with the same material. "Better wait for a while 
and try our chances in a different manner. There's 
Philip!" 

Men were approaching from a point but a few feet 
away, their figures standing out against the reflection 
of the camp-fires dotting the Turkish position, and in 
amongst them was Geoffs chum, held firmly by the 
arms, his head pushed forward by a brawny individual 
who gripped the nape of his neck, and his legs already 
encumbered by a rope which had been passed loosely 
round them. 

"So, a British officer. Ah!" 

"A British officer. Yes!" Geoff admitted between 
his gasps. 

"And one who speaks Turkish, eh?" the man who 
accosted him demanded. 



254 On the Road to Bagdad 

^' That is so." 

'' Then how?" asked the Turkish officer. '' Where 
did you learn to speak our tongue? You are British, 
you say, and few there are of that nation who speak 
our language. Then how? Where? When did you 
learn it?" 

*'One moment; let me sit down for a while," said 
Geoff, panting so heavily that he could hardly make 
the request. **In a little while I will answer any 
reasonable question that you may put before me, and 
in the meantime you need have little fear; for see, 
there are perhaps twenty or thirty men here to support 
you." 

A grim, harsh chuckle came from the Turkish 
officer, and yet a laugh which was not altogether 
disagreeable. If he had been a German officer, no 
doubt he would have stormed and raved, and might 
even have suggested shooting his prisoners on the 
spot, so as to get rid of them; but, being a Turk — and 
Turkish soldiers, whether they be officers or fighting- 
men, have ever proved themselves to be possessed of 
gentlemanly feelings — and being moreover satisfied 
that the three prisoners he had captured were com- 
pletely in his hands, this Turk was by no means ill- 
pleased, was, in fact, in quite a genial humour, and, 
if the truth be told, rather curious as to the prisoner 
who spoke his language. 

"Sit down," he said. "Now give me your word 
that you will not attempt to escape, and Til tell my 
men to stand away and to give you breathing- 
space." 

Seating himself upon the sand, in fact helped in the 
movement by the man who had been holding him, 



Captured by the Enemy 255 

Geoff remained for a while panting heavily, while his 
guard, at a sharp order from the Turkish officer, 
stepped aside and remained at some distance. Then 
Philip and Esbul were brought along by the men 
who had captured them, and were allowed to seat 
themselves beside him. 

^'Now," said the Turkish officer, after a while, 
when he was satisfied that his prisoners were rested, 
*^your promise. Say that you will make no attempt 
at escape, and you shall march back to camp at my 
side as friends, as you will, not as prisoners; only, 
when you arrive there, it will be my duty to hand you 
over to the guard, and you must take the consequences 
of your visit here this evening." 

'^ We promise!" Geoff told him promptly. 

^'Then that is sufficient. Listen, my friend! 
Though I command a detachment of Turkish troops 
down in this part of the world — this terrible quarter, 
where there is nothing but sand and marsh and water 
— yet I am from Constantinople, and, unlike many 
other Turks, I have travelled somewhat. Thus it 
happens to have been my fortune to have met many 
peoples, and amongst them men of your country. 
Always I have heard that an Englishman's word is 
his bond. My friend, you have given your word, 
and that is quite sufficient." 

He showed his friendly spirit within a moment, for, 
diving a hand into a pocket of his tunic, the officer 
produced a cigarette-case, and handed it in turn to 
each of his prisoners; and then, as they sat on there, 
on the sandy ridge above the twinkling camp-fires 
dotting the hollow below them, this Turk became 
quite communicative, as friendly as one could wish, 



256 On the Road to Bagdad 

chatted with Geoff as if he were an old friend, one 
with whom he was well acquainted. 

''Come!" he said encouragingly. *' Be not so 
close, be as frank and as friendly as I am, for let me 
tell you that I am more than interested in you, for, as 
I said before, how many of your nation are there who 
can speak our language? And you, you speak it as 
a native almost — fluently, glibly, with the tone and 
accent of an educated gentleman. That you are an 
officer I know, indeed I knew it from the moment of 
your capture. Now tell me how it came about that 
you learnt our tongue." 

There was no doubt about his earnestness, nor 
about the fact that his curiosity was purely friendly; 
quite frankly, therefore, withholding nothing, Geoff 
told him how he had once, not so very long ago, 
visited Mesopotamia, and how his travels had taken 
him as far as Constantinople. 

'*I have a guardian," he told the Turkish officer, 
*'a British officer, one who for many years has taken 
the place of my dead father. He it was who brought 
me to this country, who led me by the Tigris to 
Bagdad, and with whom I sat in many an Arab camp 
making friends with the natives." 

'' Wait! A British officer who led you to Bagdad! 
Who lived as a friend with Arabs! But surely," said 
the Turk, ''there is but one British officer who could 
have done that, one with whom I am well acquainted. 
Had it been a German now, there would be a host of 
them, though it is little friends they are of the Arabs ^ 
inhabiting these deserts; but this man, listen my 
friend, I will give you his name — Douglas Pasha, * 
eh?" 



Captured by the Enemy 257 

**The same," Geoff admitted. 

There was a long pause after that while the Turk 
slowly puffed at his cigarette, the glowing end show- 
ing his features for a few brief seconds, and then 
dying down between the puffs till it was only possible 
to make out the dull outline of his figure. No doubt 
he was thinking hard, thinking furiously, for a Turk, 
while he puffed clouds of smoke into the dusk around 
him. 

*'So," he said at last, giving vent to a low-pitched 
whistle, ''you are Douglas Pasha's ward — and 
Douglas Pasha is an old friend of mine, one to whom 
I am much beholden. Well, it is the fortune of war, 
my friend. The fortune, or shall we say for a moment, 
while there are none to overhear us, yes, the misfor- 
tune? For see the dilemma in which I am placed. 
As a loyal Turk I have taken steps to make you a 
captive, you, who were discovered in the act of watch- 
ing our camp and making a reconnaissance. As a 
loyal Turk I have made captive the ward of one whom 
I admit my friend, one whom I would go far to help, 
and whose esteem is of value to me. Yet, see the 
dilemma in which I am placed. This I have done as 
a loyal man, and one who does his utmost for his 
country; though all the while I know that it is not my 
country for which I fight, but that Young Turk Party 
which, alas! controls its destiny. Listen! There 
are none to hear us, and therefore I can speak the 
words. Had the Sultan been able to control the 
affairs of our nation, there would have been no war 
with Russia, no war with our ancient friends the 
British, no alliance with these hated Germans. There! 
I have said enough. Let us walk as friends as far as 

(C834) 17 



258 On the Road to Bagdad 

our Head-quarters, and after that, well after that you 
pass out of my hands, though Tewfic Pasha will think 
of you kindly, and maybe might help you on some 
occasion." 

Truly the adventure which had befallen Geoff and 
Philip and Esbul was turning out to be as strange as 
it had been sudden and unexpected ; for here, captives 
in the hands of the enemy, they were yet friends 
already with at least one of them, while Geoff had 
discovered in this Turkish officer one who in other 
times would have gone out of his way to be helpful, 
considerate, and friendly. But Turkey was at war 
with Britain, and whatever Tewfic Pasha's private 
feelings may have been towards our country he had 
a duty to perform, like every other loyal man ; and 
Geoff, realizing that fact, honoured him the more 
when at length he gave a sharp order and called his 
men about them. 

^'You'll fall in round the prisoners, allowing them 
to march freely," he said. "When we reach the 
centre of the camp two of you will attach yourselves 
to each of these three men, and will escort them to 
Head-quarters. But listen, ye dogs! No violence, 
no brutal treatment, for these young men have be- 
haved most gallantly, have fought for their freedom, 
and now, having lost to us, who are the more nume- 
rous, are content with their lot, are cheerful, and are 
facing the future with courage." 

" After all, things might have been worse," chirped 
Philip, as the trio marched along in the centre of 
their escort, the officer now at the head of his men. 
** Quarter of an hour ago I thought my last moment 
had come, particularly when one of these fellows round 



Captured by the Enemy 259 

us indicated to me in the most unpleasant manner that 
he was armed with a knife, and was longing to push 
it through me. Ugh!" 

He gave vent to an exaggerated grunt of horror, 
which set Geoff giggling, for it reminded him of his 
own feelings, of that cold shiver which had gone down 
his spine, of the extraordinary indescribable shudder 
which had shaken him from head to foot, and which, 
courageous though he hoped he had been, had set his 
limbs trembling. 

' ' Jolly nasty ! " he said, sympathizing with his chum 
immediately. " I had the same sort of experience, and 
it isn't nice, particularly on a dark night, and when it 
comes so unexpectedly. But we've been wonderfully 
lucky w^hen you come to think of it — though it's awfully 
unfortunate that we should have been captured — for 
this officer in charge of the party actually knows 
Major Douglas, and if it weren't war-time I believe 
he would himself see us to a place of safety." 

''And might even now look the other way if there 
was a chance of our escaping," suggested Phil. 

'' No, decidedly no!" Geoff answered. *' He's loyal 
to the core, this Turkish officer, unlike so many of 
them." 

'*Then what's to be done?" asked Phil. ''You 
don't mean to tell me that you are going to allow 
yourself to be taken as a prisoner, say, into the in- 
terior of the country, and give up all hope of joining 
the other fellows?" 

Geoff laughed, a gruff, determined sort of laugh, 
which sounded rather impressive in the darkness. 
There was a note of satire in it too, a note seldom 
indulged in by our hero. 



26o On the Road to Bagdad 

'^ Sorry that's the impression you've got of me after 
all these months," he told Philip curtly. *' Sorry 
you think I'm so soft, so lacking in spirit, as to 
give up just because I am captured. What about 
that trip we proposed which was to carry us to Bag- 
dad, and was to allow us to make a search for Major 
Douglas?" 

A sudden exclamation escaped from Philip's lips, 
and, diving at Geoff's arm, he gripped the wrist with 
a suddenness which was almost disconcerting: 

*' And — and, why not?" he said in a hoarse whisper, 
*'why not? Aren't we now away from the expedition, 
aren't we more in the heart of Mesopotamia than ever 
we were before? Just think for a moment, and suppose 
you had gone off on that expedition that you've been 
planning, that you've been dreaming about every day 
and night since that letter came from your guardian. 
Supposing you'd slipped away from the British camp 
and had got behind the enemy's lines: where's the 
difference?" 

Geoff brought his eloquence and enthusiasm to a 
somewhat sudden end by giving him a disagreeable 
reminder. 

'* Difference! Difference!" he remarked caustically. 
**Only this, that whereas, in that case, we should be 
behind their lines, but free; in this, we are in the 
midst of their lines, not free, but captives." 

But you could not damp Phil's ardour or his spirits 
however much cold water you threw upon them. He 
gurgled for a while, gasped rather loudly, and took 
to whistling. Then, when they had covered perhaps 
a hundred yards, he again opened the subject; indeed, 
he proceeded with the discussion as though it had 



Captured by the Enemy 261 

never been broken ofiF, as if there had been no such 
thing as an interruption. 

** Well," he said testily. " Well, who wants to be 
told that sort of thing? Don't I know just as well as 
you do that the case ain't quite the same, that we are 
prisoners and in the enemy's lines, instead of being 
free and behind them? But it's near enough, surely. 
A chap has only got to escape from these fellows who 
have bagged us, and — and — and there you are!' 

**And — and — there you are!" laughed Geoff, catch- 
ing his enthusiasm instantly; indeed, our hero had 
already been thinking furiously as to how he and his 
friends were to circumvent this difficult position in 
which they found themselves, and to shake off the 
hold which the Turks had cast upon them. And why, 
as Philip said, if only they could make their escape, 
seeing that they would then presumably be behind 
the lines of the enemy, why should they not turn 
their faces towards Bagdad, and go on with the rescue 
of Douglas Pasha. 

'* Jingo! We'll do it," he told his friend. 

*'You — you — you consent? You think it's pos- 
sible?" asked Phil, his voice eager, his face lit up — 
though, to be sure, it could not be seen because of the 
darkness. 

*' Hush! We're in the centre of the camp, and the 
guard is closing in on us," Geoff warned him. *' But, 
just a last word in case we are separated, I am going 
to do my best to escape, and if I succeed, and can get 
you and Esbul free also, I am off for Bagdad." 

** Done, with you! Shake hands on it!" cried 
Phil, gripping his chum's palm and shaking it warmly. 
^ ' Ripping ! The thought of such an expedition makes 



262 On the Road to Bagdad 

up for this ghastly business; perhaps to-night we'll 
do it, perhaps to-morrow, and — and — well, you can 
rely on me standing by you, old fellow. If they 
separate us, and the chance comes to me to slip my 
cable, you know, don't you, Geoff, that I'll stand by 
until I get you and Esbul out, so as to complete the 
party?" 

There was no time for Geoff to make a reply, n» 
time to thank his chum for an expression of loyalty 
which was just like him, for the guard had already 
closed in, men were gripping their arms on either 
side, while, despite the caution of Tewfic Pasha, 
one at least of the men showed little love for the 
captives. 

''Dog," he whispered in Geoff's ear, "you infideK 
who speak our language, be silent, or I will screw* 
the head from your body." 

"Unpleasant fellow," muttered Geoff, yet smiling 
serenely, for he knew well enough that a call to Tewfic 
Pasha would relieve him of this threatening fellow's 
attentions. Ah! That appears to be the Turkish 
Head-quarters." 

It was lighter now that they had arrived at what • 
appeared to be the centre of the Turkish concentration; 
for numerous camp-fires were dotted about the place, 
lighting up the surroundings with their reflection, 
and indeed making the outer darkness even denser, 
even more impenetrable. There loomed up now in 
front of them a row of tents, one larger than the 
others, over which a flag could be heard fluttering in 
the breeze, though its folds could not be seen so easily 
There were lamps burning in the tent, and towards it 
the guard escorted their prisoners. 



Captured by the Enemy 263 

* * Halt ! " commanded Tewfic Pasha, and then entered 
the tent. 

^* Master," whispered Esbul at that moment, taking 
advantage of the fact that the guard had released their 
grip of their prisoners, and were now standing at 
attention dressed in two lines, one in front and one 
behind their captives. '' Master, let me say a word 
in your ear while there is time. Listen! I am an 
Armenian." 

It was a fact of which Geoff was thoroughly well 
aware, and yet a fact the seriousness of which had not 
struck him till that moment. 

''An Armenian! An Armenian, yes!" he said, 
speaking his thoughts in a whisper; "and the Turks 
have no love for that nation." 

*' Love, Excellency!" exclaimed Esbul, with a bitter- 
ness which was strange to him. " Love, my master! 
Of a truth, where the Armenian race is concerned, the 
Turk has nothing but bitterness and hatred to show. 
You have heard maybe of their doings in past years?" 

*' I have," Geoff said consolingly. 

'' How these Turkish fiends massacred our people, 
how they hate us perhaps because we are Christians, 
and how they have done their utmost to exterminate 
us, to grind us under their heel, to rid this land of 
Turkey of us." 

''I have heard the tale," Geoff told him sadly 
enough, for for many years the massacre of unfor- 
tunate and helpless Armenians in Turkey had been 
carried out by the Sultan's people, and had more than 
once roused the bitter anger of peoples in Europe. 
Yet who could control the Turk in the centre of his 
own country? What nation could prevent the Sultan 



264 On the Road to Bagdad 

from wreaking his fiendish hate upon these people? 
And now that this gigantic war had broken out, and 
Turkey had declared herself in favour of the Germans, 
who could prevent the agents of the Kaiser, those 
sinister individuals, from persuading the Young Turk 
Party once more to commence their hideous work in 
the neighbourhood of Erzerum and the Caucasus 
Mountains? Already, urged on by those satellites of 
the Kaiser — those ruthless individuals, possessed of as 
little mercy as their fellows in Europe — massacres of 
the Armenians had once again begun, and ere they 
were finished were to account for almost a million of 
these miserable, unfortunate individuals. No wonder 
Esbul was trembling — Esbul, the Armenian, the 
faithful servant who had followed Douglas Pasha into 
the heart of Mesopotamia, and who had borne that 
message to our hero. 

*' Master," he said again, making violent efforts to 
control his words, '*for you, who are a prisoner, and 
for your comrade, things may be well enough, for at 
heart the Turk is kindly disposed, and thinks well of 
the British, but for me, an Armenian, what is there to 
hope for?" 

''What indeed?" Geoff sighed, when he grasped 
the full import of what Esbul had been saying. For 
he knew well enough the hardships of the Armenian 
race, and was well acquainted with the fact that the 
Turks hated, despised, and tortured them. Were, 
then, these captors of theirs likely to treat Esbul 
leniently once they discovered that one of the trio 
they had laid their hands on was an Armenian? 
Would they treat him as an honoured captive? — as 
Geoff hoped would be the case with Philip and him- 



Captured by the Enemy 265 

self. Or would they drag him aside, stand him out 
in the open, and shoot him like a dog? — the treatment 
they were meting out to his brothers. 

** Listen!" he told him. *' Listen, Esbul; you must 
go, you must go now; you must slip away; you must 
never let them see you! Wait! I will fall to the 
ground and feign illness, which will create a dis- 
turbance. Go then, take advantage of the opportu- 
nity; and, later, when you are free, and perhaps have 
reached Bagdad, look out for me and my comrade, 
and search for the whereabouts of Douglas Pasha." 

He pressed the hand of the faithful fellow, and then, 
coughing violently, suddenly fell to the ground and 
writhed there, rolling from side to side, groaning and 
creating as much noise and fuss as was possible. At 
once Philip leapt to his side, kneeling on the ground 
and bending over him. 

*' What's the matter?" he asked distractedly, for he 
was thoroughly startled by this strange occurrence. 

** Shut up!" Geoff told him. '* I'm shamming. I'll 
tell you why later." 

''What ails the dog? Come, what has happened 
to him?" 

Turks in the rear rank, drawn up behind the cap- 
tives and nearest to them, had darted forward almost 
at once as Geoff fell to the ground, and now one of 
them bent over him and gripped him by the shoulder, 
while he bawled into his ear. A second later a figure 
darted from the tent — the figure of Tewfic Pasha — 
and, pushing men of the front rank aside uncere- 
moniously, came upon the scene. 

''Hold your tongue!" he commanded the man 
shouting at Geoff. "What has happened? Ah! 



266 On the Road to Bagdad 

This officer is ill. Carry him into the tent, two of 
you idle fellows." 

Picking their burden up, the men bore him into the 
tent, illuminated by swinging oil-lamps, while Philip 
followed unbidden. 

** And the third?" asked Tewfic Pasha, casting his 
eyes upon Geoff and Philip, and seeing them clearly 
for the first time since he and his men had laid hold 
of them. **The third, that other fellow; where is 
he?" 

Yes, where? There was a hue and cry outside: men 
were rushing to and fro, shouting and bellowing at 
one another, while a couple of the guard were speed- 
ing across the camp calling a warning to the sentries. 
For Esbul had disappeared. He had been at Geoff's 
side just a second before he tumbled, and those men 
in the rear rank of the Turkish guard could have 
sworn that he had knelt beside his comrade and had 
bent over him; and yet — and yet the darkness had 
swallowed him up; he had gone, slipped away like a 
will-o'-the-wisp, and no one had caught sight of him. 
Meanwhile Geoff had made a reasonably rapid re- 
covery, and stood now beside Philip, swaying just a 
little — for he had to act the part — his face flushed just 
a trifle after his exertions, his breath coming in pant- 
ing grunts. 

'* I'm sorry," he told Tewfic Pasha; ^' but the thing 
is over now; merely a spasm, a sudden dizziness, 
perhaps produced by those lusty fellows of yours who 
sat so heavily on me." 

''And the promise you made has been kept," 
Tewfic smiled back at him, indeed his eyes twinkled 
— twinkled knowingly. ''You gave me your word 



Captured by the Enemy 267 

that you and your comrades would march towards 
this spot without attempting an escape, and when my 
guards laid their hands on you, within sight of this 
tent, and marched you forward, you were absolved of 
your promise. Listen!" he whispered in Geoff's ear 
a moment or so later, when he had an opportunity. 
** It is as well, my friend; it is just as well, for that 
other man was not of your country. Maybe he was 
of ours, maybe he was an Armenian." 

The bright friendly eyes of the Turkish officer 
twinkled again, and a smile lit up his face, then, turn- 
ing away, he accosted a Turk who approached at that 
moment from an ante-room erected behind this tent, 
which served as the Head-quarters of the Turkish 
Concentration. 

*' Prisoners, Excellency!" he said. '' We captured 
three of them on the ridge, and doubtless they are 
scouts of an enemy party coming in this direction. 
They are British officers, Excellency, and once they 
were captured have behaved well and quietly. I have 
given them your word — the word of a man of honour — 
that they shall be well and kindly treated." 

As a matter of fact, Geoff and Phil had no cause to 
complain of the treatment meted out to them, for, as 
we have said before, the Turks had already given 
many an illustration of the fact that they were both 
good and stanch soldiers and most excellent fellows. 
Once the fighting was done, once they had made 
captives or been captured, they forgot their enmity, 
and in the case of those they had made prisoners, 
treated them like human beings. 

"You are to be sent up the Kut-el-Hai to the 
Tigris," said Tewfic Pasha, when the General in 



268 On the Road to Bagdad 

Command of the Turkish Concentration had inspected 
the prisoners and had cross-examined them. " I am 
commanded to see that quarters are found for you, 
and that you are given food and clothing. You will 
start on your journey to-morrow." 

The following morning, in fact, at an early hour, 
found the two young officers aboard a small steam- 
launch, which at once set out for Kut-el-Amara. 
Arriving at that place on the River Tigris some three 
days later, they transhipped to a larger vessel, a 
paddle-steamer — as rusty and dilapidated as any of 
those which had come to the Shatt-el-Arab from 
India for service with the British. Then they were 



carried up the winding Tigris, and in due cowj^s/^^ y\^ 



after days of twisting and turning along the numeroi 
bends of the river, after running aground on sand-''^!/'^ 
banks on many occasions, they reached at last the y^^ 
city of Bagdad — the Mecca of the Turks of Eastern^'^^--^ 
Turkey and of the Arabs of Mesopotamia — and there,/ 
having been interrogated again by a Turkish ofificefj- 
they were sent to a prison — a fort outside the city-^"^ 
the clanging gates of which shut on them with a force / 
and a jar which, in spite of their buoyant spirits, sent 
a chill of despair through them. 

''Nasty strong sort of a place," Philip whispered 
to his chum, as they passed under a low flat roof and 
along a stone passage. '' No picking a hole through 
these walls with a penknife, my boy. It will have to 
be a case of strategy." 

Geoff looked round him, for the bright sunlight 
outside sent slanting rays into the passage and lit up 
their surroundings. 

''Beastly strong place," he agreed with Philip; 




Captured by the Enemy 269 

** built of stone, and every piece set close to the other. 
But we'll see, Phil ; the cage that's to hold the two of 
us will have to be a pretty strong one, for I'll tell you 
this, I've made up my mind that I'll break out of this 
place, and carry on that little business." 

** Douglas Pasha, eh?" asked Phil. 

** Of course. Ah! The fellow's opening a door, 
and in we go! A cell big enough for the two of us! 
My word! Breaking out will take a lot of doing." 



CHAPTER XV 

Von Hildemaller's Intervention 

A SILENCE settled down upon the prison and the cell 
in which Geoff and Philip had been thrust, once the 
clanging of the iron door which closed it had sub- 
sided — a silence which told rather on their nerves, 
and helped to rob them of their spirits. They sat 
just within the door, staring about them, noticing 
with concern, almost with dismay, the solid masonry 
built up above them, the two narrow windows which 
gave air and light, and the absence of any sort of open- 
ing which might give them a means of making their 
escape. Then Philip sat down On the edge of a low 
platform built against one of the walls and burst into 
loud whistling. 

' ' No use being down-hearted ! No use crying before 
we're hurt! In other words, it ain't no use giving up 
before we've tried, eh?" he blurted out when he had 
accomplished a few shrill bars of an air popular amongst 
his fellows. 

^'In fact, keep on hoping!" said Geoff, laughing now, 
though he had felt singularly depressed but a few mo- 
ments earlier. ''And, besides, Philip, I've an idea!" 

''Let's hear it; something new, eh? An idea! 
Well, you astonish me!" 

The incorrigible subaltern began whistling again, 

270 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 271 

a shrill, exultant, happy whistle, and continued it 
though a moment later steps were heard in the corridor 
outside. There was a bang on the door, and the 
heavy iron concern was burst open. A smooth-faced, 
bald-headed, and raggedly dressed Turk thrust his 
head and shoulders in and grimaced at them. Then 
he opened his mouth, or rather let his lips fall apart, 
showing a set of gleaming white teeth which perhaps 
might have frightened younger people. 

"Silence, dogs!" he shouted at them, and at the 
order Philip ceased whistling. 

" Tell the old boy that we want food and water," he 
said to Geoff. " And, by the way, about that idea of 
yours, I suppose one can take it that this rascal can't 
speak English." 

Geoff gave him a quick look, and, turning, to the 
jailer, demanded food and drink from him. 

"As to calling us dogs," he said severely, realizing 
that to cringe to this ruffian would be to invite harsh 
treatment, and that sternness and unconcern on his 
part would be more likely to impress him — "as to 
calling us dogs, you rascal, bear in mind that we are 
not without friends in this country. Listen ! You may 
know of one Tewfic Pasha? Ah! You know the 
man then ! That is enough — bring food and water." 

It was clear in a moment that if this jailer were 
inclined to be a somewhat rough and rude, if not a 
bullying, sort of individual, he yet had a certain fund 
of discretion, and, moreover, that even if he were the 
guardian of this cell, interned as it were, far away from 
active operations, he yet had knowledge of others out- 
side the prison. He had heard of Tewfic Pasha, that 
was certain, for on the mention of the name his face 



272 On the Road to Bagdad 

had fallen, the grimace, the snarl, which he had turned 
upon the prisoners, was changed at once to a sly, fawn- 
ing smile, while he even bowed in Geoff's direction. 

** I was mistaken then. Excellency," he said at last, 
after some seconds had passed, during which he racked 
his brains for something to say. ''Food and water? 
You shall have it, for I have orders to treat you with 
indulgence." 

''Wait!" demanded Geoff, determined not to lose 
his hold over this fellow, and arresting him in the 
act of closing the door, "wait, my good fellow! 
Doubtless you will be caring for our comfort for 
some while to come, so that it may be as well at this 
moment to come to an understanding. Doubtless, 
too, money is of some value to you, and if that be 
so, and you treat my comrade and myself to favours, 
then, when we are released, you shall be rewarded. 
Say now, is that a bargain?" 

The man's face lit up immediately, while he even 
smiled quite a pleasant smile upon them. Sour dis- 
positioned, ill-grained, and surly — perhaps because of 
the work allotted to him — this man, at the bottom of 
his heart, was really not without his virtues. Cunning 
like many a Turk, avaricious, and apt to trade upon 
those at his mercy, he had — in spite of the order which 
he had just admitted he had received — namely, that 
he was to treat his prisoners with indulgence — in spite 
of that, he had looked upon them as helpless, as penni- 
less, as likely to be only a nuisance and an encum- 
brance. But now Geoffs tones, the peremptory words 
he had uttered, and, more than all, that suggestion of 
a reward quite altered his intentions. 

"A reward, Excellency! Then indeed I am fortu- 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 273 

nate," he told Geoff. *'Let your Excellency declare 
what is wanted, and that which I am able to bring 
shall surely reach you." 

*' And a question," said Geoff, determined to make 
the most of his opportunity. ^'This prison, where is 
it situated? How far from Bagdad?" 

*^ A day's march — not more, not less. Excellency!" 

*'And there are other prisoners? Others from 
Britain or Russia?" 

The man shook his head and raised his eyes as if 
Geoff were encroaching upon a subject which was for- 
bidden. Then, backing out of the door, he pulled it 
to after him with a clang, and went off along the pas- 
sage in a different frame of mind from that in which 
he had entered it. As for Phil, he gave vent once 
more to a shrill whistle, which ended in a blast of air 
which came through his parted lips soundless. 

*' And that's the idea?" he asked slyly, pointing at 
the door, and jerking his thumb over his shoulder in 
the direction of the passage. '' If you put a bird in a 
cage, and the doors are so strong that breaking through 
'em is out of the question, that bird ain't necessarily 
deprived of a chance of getting his freedom. There's 
the door left, an iron affair on this occasion, and as 
strong as a rock from the look of it, and then there's 
the jailer!" 

^' But there's something more than the jailer no 
doubt!" Geoff warned him; "there'll be sentries per- 
haps, officials in charge of the prison, other doors, 
with doors beyond them." 

*' Which don't say that even then we shouldn't be 
successful," said Philip airily. "It's a chance, of 
course. What would they do if they caught us?" 

(0 834) 18 



274 On the Road to Bagdad 

"Depends. Perhaps shoot us, though I hardly 
think it's likely — your Turk doesn't indulge in fright- 
fulness, like his German ally. It's worth the chance^ 
Philip, and we'll risk it; but, like sensible individuals, 
we'll first of all find out as much as we can about local 
conditions. We'll rest content here for a while and 
plumb this jailer fellow as far as possible." 

*'And then we'll scrag him. Not that one wants 
to be violent with him," said Philip; '^ I'd like to treat 
the fellow as gently as possible. But where a man 
stands between you and a chance of getting freedom, 
well, it ain't your fault, is it? It's his, if he gets ham- 
mered." 

The two were still discussing the matter earnestly, 
almost eagerly, when steps were heard again in the 
corridor outside, and the door was pushed open by 
the jailer, now smiling widely, and bearing a Turkish 
tray upon which were set coffee and food in abun- 
dance. 

A week passed, during which Geoff and his chum 
did their best to while away the weary hours, and to 
ascertain something of the outside of their cell and 
the conditions existing in other parts of the prison. 
By dint of carefully probing the jailer, by flattering 
him and raising his hopes of a reward, they ascer- 
tained that the Governor was lying ill, and that his 
subordinate was often enough away from the building. 
There were troops there, they gathered, but how 
many, and where quartered, no amount of questioning 
would extract from the jailer ; nor was it wise to ask 
him about the plan of the building, the position of the 
cell, the corridor outside, and the road which led to 
the gates giving access. 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 275 

As to the cell itself, the first complete day had 
imprinted every feature of it upon their minds, till 
they knew every crevice, every flaw in the stone, every 
little hole and excrescence. They knew the exact height 
of those two windows which admitted air and light to 
their prison, and, by standing upon one another's 
shoulders, had contrived to look outside — only to find 
that both windows looked out upon a courtyard, sur- 
rounded by a wall the top of which would undoubtedly 
be well beyond their reach. As to the windows them- 
selves, they were barred so heavily that to attempt to 
get through them was out of the question, and even 
were they provided with a saw or a chisel the job/ 
would still be beyond them. 

*'So it's got to be the jailer," grinned Philip, when 
the week had passed, "and, 'pon my word, I'm 
awfully sorry about it. Of course we must do the 
square thing by him; we've promised him a reward, 
and he must have it. Let's form our plans for gag-^ 
ging and tying him up safely." 

There was more discussion after that, eager enough 
to be sure, while plans were made and unmade, every 
eventuality likely to occur foreseen and overcome as 
far as possible. 

" Naturally enough, we shall not make the attempt 
until nightfall," said Geoff, "and, seeing that this 
fellow gives us a last call just about dusk, that will be 
the most convenient hour to nab him. Let's go over 
the scene for a moment. If we happen to be fairly 
close to the door when he enters, he won't be suspi- 
cious, for he's found us in every sort of position during 
the last week. A chap would get soft and out of con- 
dition if he stayed in one place in a cell like this, and 



276 On the Road to Bagdad 

it's only by walking up and down and running round 
that we have been able to get exercise. Exercise, by 
Jove! Why didn't we think of that before? We 
might have sent a message to the Governor of the 
prison asking him to allow us out of our cell for 
certain hours of the day, and that would have given 
us an idea of our surroundings." 

It was strange indeed that they had not thought of 
that before, and, acting on the impulse of the moment, 
they called loudly for the jailer, and having attracted 
his attention sent him on a mission to the Governor. 

** But no. Excellency!" he told Geoff on his return; 
^' it is not permitted — not for the moment at any rate. 
You must wait. The Governor is in ill-health and 
out of temper, and he bade me return with a peremp- 
tory refusal. Have patience. Perhaps in a little while 
you will be liberated and allowed to walk on the roof, 
where you may enjoy the sunlight." 

** Prophetic!" said Philip when the door had closed 
again. ^^ In a little while we may be liberated — this 
evening, if possible, I think. What do you say, 
Geoff?" 

*' I'm with you," answered our hero; 'Met's get the 
gag ready for him, and arrange about his money. 
Funny, isn't it, that we've been able to keep what we 
had in our pockets? I imagine that if Germans had 
captured us they'd have rifled us of every coin, and 
we should have been paupers." 

Yet, as it happened, despite their anxiety to break 
loose from the prison and find their way into the open, 
the evening passed without event, and was followed 
by days of waiting. Days which stretched into weeks 
—miserable, lonely weeks, the hours of which dragged 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 277 

by on leaden wheels, while the days themselves were 
often like a nightmare, so long did the minutes take 
in passing, so long were they drawn out, so utterly 
unending did they seem. 

"But it's no use being despondent," said Geoff; 
"and just because the jailer seems to be on the qui 
vive all the time, and has not yet given us an opportu- 
nity, and, indeed, has been accompanied by another 
man on many occasions, we mustn't think that the 
plan is *off', or even dream of giving up the under- 
taking. We're going to break out of this place, 
Philip." 

"You've said that time and again," grinned the 
irrepressible and ever-jovial Philip, "and so have I; 
and, by Jingo! we will — only when? This waiting is 
getting a bit trying. I declare my joints are getting 
stiff, and if I had to run a hundred yards I'd lose the 
race." 

Lack of exercise and of fresh air was indeed telling 
upon the two very greatly; for, be it remembered, 
they were young, enthusiastic, and open-air creatures, 
who, in months past, had spent the better part of their 
waking hours out in the free open air, under the blue 
sky of Mesopotamia; and when in India or in Eng- 
land, outside buildings whenever possible, enjoying 
the sunlight and the fresh breezes which played about 
them. And now, to be cooped up between four stone 
walls of this unpleasant prison, this stone vault, was 
depressing, to say the least of it; it was enervating, 
taking the colour out of their cheeks, and, in spite of 
their courage and their youthful enthusiasm, was 
tending rather to take the heart out of them. 

"We shall rot if we go on like this," said Geoff 



278 On the Road to Bagdad 

desperately, when a few days had passed. *' I quite 
believe you, Philip, for my joints, too, feel stiff and 
useless almost. Supposing we were to beguile the 
time by a little active exercise — sort of Swedish gym- 
nastics. Eh? Why not?" 

^' Why not?" Philip said eagerly, grasping at the 
suggestion with the energy almost of a drowning man 
grasping at a straw. ^'You've taken squads in that 
before. Fire away, Geoff! Let's see what we make 
of it." 

Thereafter the astonished jailer peeped in more than 
once on these curious white prisoners of his, to find 
them perhaps stretched on their backs on the stone 
floor of the cell, their hands clasped under their heads, 
and their legs, stretched stiffly in front of them, being 
slowly raised towards the ceiling. Or he came upon 
the two facing one another with absolutely solemn 
visages, on tiptoe, bobbing up and down in the most 
extraordinary fashion. 

*^ Allah, but this is a strange sight!" he told him- 
self on the first occasion, and looked suspiciously 
round the cell. "No, no! There is no sign of 
attempted escape — windows are barred as usual. 
Truly this is a strange experience. Surely these 
young men, no doubt nobles in their own country, 
have gone crazy." 

He was more than dumbfounded, absolutely stag- 
gered, one day, when, entering the cell very quietly 
and very suddenly, he discovered Geoff standing be- 
hind his chum, gripping him firmly by the waist and 
slowly raising him upward, raising him till the lanky 
figure of Philip was lifted to a horizontal position 
above Geoff's head, and was slowly pushed upward to 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 279 

the full extent of his arms and then lowered again, 
only to be pushed once more into the old position ; 
then, as the gaping jailer watched, the figure of the 
subaltern was brought to a vertical position and 
lowered ever so gently to the ground till his stock- 
inged toes touched the stone floor of the prison. By 
then the man's eyes were starting out of his head, and 
he gripped the edge of the iron door as if to support 
himself. 

** Allah is great!" he stuttered. *^ Surely Allah is 
great! And these white youths are the strangest of 
people. See now what they do ! They are here in a 
prison cell, none too comfortable, perhaps, none too 
bright and cheery, yet with four peaceful walls about 
them, and a wooden divan on which they may without 
hindrance sit or lounge the day long, staring maybe 
at the wall, and dreaming of the past or of the future. 
And surely the future, in spite of such a prison, has 
much that is of rosy colour for such youths — youths 
who are but on the threshold of manhood. There is 
hope for them, a peaceful life to contemplate, and, 
within these four walls, no need to do aught else but 
dream, but let the hours slide away, but let others 
work for their existence." 

That was the Turkish outlook on life — an outlook 
which permits a man to reach man's estate as he may 
do, and which enjoins on him the need thereafter to 
live as placid, as workless a life as he may find. Pass 
your Turkish bazaar, wend your way through some 
Turkish cafe, and see the individuals of that nationality 
seated there. Cross-legged, they rest in comfort where 
Britons would be seized with cramp within five 
minutes. Cross-legged, they rest placidly, their open 



28o On the Road to Bagdad 

eyes fixed on nothing, their thoughts barren, their 
minds perhaps a blank. Or they sit with one hand 
resting in their lap or toying with the tiny egg-shaped 
coffee-cup which brings them refreshment, the other 
hand gripping the long, braided stem of the narghile. 
Then puffs of white smoke escape slowly, reluctantly, 
as it were, from their lips, and are gently wafted above 
by the breeze circling round the stalls or the cafe into 
the open air. Who knows? It may be that in the 
midst of those clouds your Turk sees his future, and 
gathers inspiration for those dreams which keep him 
a placid occupier of his stall or his portion of the divan 
in the cafe, holding him enthralled in lazy, idle specu- 
lation, in gentle, easy wondering, in an aimless en- 
deavour to burst the mists of the future and discover 
what may be his fortune in the years to come. 

For a Turk that may be good enough, sufficient ex- 
ercise both for mind and body; but the fresh blood, 
the keen intellect, the wonderful energy of Anglo- 
Saxons require more movement, require some better 
pabulum for their thoughts — something far more 
stimulating — and they find it in active, open-air exer- 
cise, in the seeing of interest in all things, and in the 
taking of energetic steps which may bring into motion 
every joint, every muscle, and every fibre of their 
bodies. Thus what appeared to be a form of increas- 
ing mania in Geoff and Philip in the eyes of their 
jailer and of the man who accompanied him on occa- 
sion, who both of them stared, amazed — though they 
had now seen those curious actions of their two pri- 
soners on many occasions — was no more strange and 
astonishing to them than were the sloth, the ease, and 
the aimless existence of the Turks to our two heroes. 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 281 

See the result of this extraordinary mania on the 
part of Geoff and PhiHp. The hours began to gHde 
away. The days fled as if there was some driving 
force behind them, and slid by at such a rate that 
a week was gone before they could look round, while 
week piled on week in rapid succession. Nor was 
that the only advantage obtained by these two ener- 
getic and restless prisoners. Little by little their 
colour came back, till they were rosy in spite of those 
four blank walls about them ; and little by little their 
muscles hardened, their joints became more flexible 
and elastic, and their strength increased to a point at 
which both of them, in spite of their moderately heavy 
build, threatened to become young Samsons. Little 
did the grinning jailer realize that, whereas he might 
have proved an easy victim of these two, attacking 
him together, at the commencement of their captivity, 
he would now be but as a child in the arms of one; 
for Geoff's fingers alone had become so powerful that 
he could have taken the Turk by the neck and shaken 
the life out of him single-handed. 

^^I think, old boy, that the jailer w^on't stand a 
dog's chance v/hen we get busy," he told Philip. 

*' And I believe you, dear chap," grinned his chum, 

'^only " And then Philip's face lengthened till 

it had attained the length of the proverbial fiddle, 
**only this waiting is all rot. I believe myself that 
that beggar of a jailer suspects us. He's been aw- 
fully decent, of course, in bringing us food and 
water, but, all the same, he's got it into his narrow 
head that we mean to tackle him on the first occasion." 

It was Geoff's turn to grin — a happy grin — for the 
exercise had improved his digestion, and had brought 



282 On the Road to Bagdad 

him to a position where he might be said to be in the 
pink of health, and therefore looked on the bright side 
of everything. 

*^ I believe you, dear boy," he said, repeating 
Philip's statement. *'As to when the chance will 
come, well, who knows? Only we are ready." 

They spent that afternoon in carefully devising 
a gag and ropes, which they obtained by tearing 
strips off the blankets which had been provided for 
their covering; and then counted out the sum of 
money which, though not very great, was likely to 
prove a small fortune to the jailer. In fact, they 
had not yet completed their preparations when steps 
were heard in the corridor outside and halted at the 
doorway. 

'* Ready?" asked Geoff. 

Philip nodded, and, sauntering to the corner of the 
cell, placed himself in a position which would allow 
him to throw himself on the back of the jailer. Geoff 
crushed the gag into his trouser pocket, and stood, as 
he had often stood before, facing the door, waiting for 
it to open. The bolts were pulled back with a clang, 
and slowly the heavy iron frame-door was pushed 
open, disclosing the smiling, friendly face of the 
jailer at first, and then a second individual — a stout, 
fat, heavily-built man, dressed in the loosest of Euro- 
pean clothing, who mopped his streaming forehead 
with a red silk handkerchief, who panted and grunted, 
who blew gusts of air out of a mouth which was out 
of all proportion, from between two irregular rows of 
yellow teeth, hidden almost entirely by a moustache, 
which flowed on either side of his fat cheeks, and 
which was stained by cigarette smoke in the middle. 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 283 

More than that, the man wore on his head a panama 
hat which shaded his features, the exact expression of 
which was made all the more indistinguishable by 
the dusk already settling in the corridor, but which 
could yet be seen to be more pallid, of a whiter 
hue, than was common to the Turkish nation. It was 
no Turk in fact; it was a European, and none other 
than a German. More than that, what German in 
the heart of Mesopotamia could have answered to 
such a description as that above delineated but von 
Hildemaller? Yes, it was that urbane and kindly 
fellow, that perspiring, panting individual, that emis- 
sary of the Kaiser who dealt ostensibly in dates, but 
clandestinely in political matters. It was the gar- 
rulous, the charming, and the most entertaining Herr 
von Hildemaller, that cunning, scheming, unscrupu- 
lous wretch who had been instrumental in obtaining 
the imprisonment of Joe Douglas. 

No wonder that Geoff stared at this apparition as 
though it were a ghost, a well -grown, beefy, and 
extremely solid ghost to be sure, yet one which 
filled him with amazement. No wonder, too, that 
Philip, after his own particular custom and habit, 
pursed up his lips and allowed a low-pitched whistle 
of astonishment to escape him. And then it was von 
Hildemaller's turn. He grunted, he mopped his fore- 
head and face more violently, and greeted the two, 
first with a penetrating, suspicious glance, and then 
with an expansive smile, which took them both in at 
the same moment as it were, as if he were inordinately 
proud to meet them. 

*' Ach! It is vat I haff heard — two Englishmen — 
hein?" he grunted, and then, turning on the jailer. 



284 On the Road to Bagdad 

exploded: ^'Begone, dog!" he shouted; ** close der 
door and go to your quarters, and haff no fear dat 
deese prisoners will escape, for see, I am armed and 
prepared to hold dem." 

He waited, mopping his forehead and standing just 
within the cell, till the jailer had departed — had 
crawled away in fact, showing terror of this German 
— then, stepping well within the cell, von Hildemaller 
closed the door, and once more treated Geoff and his 
friend to an expansive grin, which was most friendly 
and most inviting. 

*'I haff heard dat you are here," he told them, 
casting a glance first at one and then at the other. 
^' I haff remember dat you are white men like myself, 
and not dogs like deese Turkish; and although we are 
at war — we Germans and you British — yet it is far 
from here to Germany and England; and I haff said: 
*Von Hildemaller, you are not such a craven fellow, 
so wrapped up in Germany, that you cannot befriend 
deese white men. Dey are nearer to you dan to deese 
Turkish dogs, deese heathen.' Mein friends, let me 
tell you something. I haff come to offer you friend- 
shib and liberty." 

They were sheep's eyes that he was casting at the 
astonished Geoff and Philip, little, swift, sidelong 
glances, which fastened upon their faces in turn — 
critical and almost anxious, penetrating glances, 
which, swift though the glimpse was of the faces of 
the British subalterns, marked every feature — their 
open guileless expressions, the look of astonishment, 
of relief, in their faces, the gleam of coming friend- 
ship in their eyes. 

Von Hildemaller chuckled, and all the while turned 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 285 

on those unsuspicious and inexperienced subalterns 
his own peculiar and expansive smile — that smile 
which had deceived so many people, that smile the 
friendliness of which gave rise to no room for sus- 
picion. He chortled, and mopped his streaming fore- 
head again with his bright-red handkerchief. He 
was making progress he felt sure; these two stalwart 
young men were taking him to their hearts already — 
this big, fat, ungainly German. And why not? For 
see what an offer had been made them ! And consider 
by whom! By none other than von Hildemaller, a 
person, it seemed, unknown to either of them, though 
let us not forget that Geoff already had some know- 
ledge of this individual, and Philip also. Yet — yet 
could these tales that had come to them be true? 

"Can the fellow be a rascal really?" Geoff was 
asking himself; while Philip stared at the huge per- 
spiring German amazed, troubled for one of the few 
occasions in his life, disconcerted, his heart fluttering 
with hope at the opportunity of swift liberty, his 
better judgment, his common sense, overcome by his 
eagerness to be quit of this cell and prison. 

And von Hildemaller, that scheming, cunning Ger- 
man, ogled the two with that pair of fat eyes of his ; 
he curled his moustache, lifting it just for a second 
sufficiently high to allow them to catch a glimpse of 
that row of tobacco-stained teeth — that row of cruel 
teeth which gave perhaps a better inkling of this 
man's real nature than any other part of his anatomy. 
Von Hildemaller pushed the red handkerchief into 
one of his bulging pockets, and then threw out the 
two fat palms of his hands in a manner character- 
istic of him. He had made an impression, he felt; 



286 On the Road to Bagdad 

he must drive the thing home; now that the thin 
edge of the wedge had been introduced he must drive 
it in firmly, securely, till he had won by his very 
impulsiveness, by his open friendship, the goodwill 
and confidence of these young fellows. 

^' Mein friends, mein lieber friends," he said in his 
most unctuous and oily manner, that expansive smile 
now exaggerated, his broad face shining with indul- 
gent friendship, '* though I am a German, still I loff 
the English; yes, how I loff them! And, mein Gott, it 
is fortunate that I came upon a man who told me of 
you, a Turkish officer who indiscreetly whispered to 
me of two brave British officers who haff been made 
captiff. And den I say: 'Von Hildemaller, you are 
like deese young officers'." 

He stopped and panted for a moment, and once 
more dived for his handkerchief with which to mop 
fiis face. ! 

j Like these two young officers! As if anyone in 
his common senses could have compared the huge, 
fat, ungainly German to either of these two spruce 
young officers, or could have seen the smallest like- 
ness between the broad, smiling, yet cunning face 
of this Teuton and the open, frank, healthy expres-l 
sions of our heroes. | 

i ''Ha!" von Hildemaller grunted, catching his 
treath and panting still more heavily, for speaking so 
rapidly was rather a tax on his energies. "And I 
say: 'Von Hildemaller, though you are a German, 
you loff deese English; dey are lost, forlorn captiffs 
in a strange country, a country of brutes and beasts 
not worthy to eat their food with Europeans', and den 
I make one big, noble resolve. I say: 'Von Hilde- 



Von Hildemallcr's Intervention 287 

mailer, mein brave, kind fellow, you will go to seek 
deese young men, you will rescue dem, you will take 
dem to a place where they can be on der parole — 
living like white men, treated with kindness and con- 
sideration'.'* 

Out came the red handkerchief again, and the mop- 
ping process was repeated, while, as the folds of the 
^ed handkerchief swept across his forehead and cleared 
^the vision first of one eye and then of the other, the 
teuton's deeply sunk and penetrating optics lit upon 
^he faces of Geoff and Phil, while his lips almost 
"^trembled with joy at the thought of coming triumph. 
^i *^ Dey are fools, deese British pups," he was telling 
himself, chortling loudly, and chuckling at his obvious 
success. '* First I half the Major Pasha — that Douglas 
Pasha, and one day I will kill him — and now I haff 
deese odder, deese two more British officers. Himmel! 
How I hate der breed, deese British, who haff come 
so soon between der Kaiser and his object. 

*' Ach ! If I could, I would screw the neck of every 
Englishman ; yes, sweep them into the desert, bury 
them out of sight, clear them away from the steps of 
all Germans." 

And yet all the time his perspiring face beamed 
upon our two heroes, beamed, whilst his words rang 
in their ears — those lying words which invited them 
to trust to this monster, which gave them hopes of 
liberty, which offered them a haven where they might 
rest in comfort and in safety, a haven which, for all 
they knew, might give them complete liberty to return 
to their own people. Indeed, though the German had 
not mentioned such a thing, had not even hinted at 
it, yet his openness of heart, the warm friendship he 



288 On the Road to Bagdad 

expressed for them, made such a possibility not en- 
tirely out of the question. It raised hopes, hopes 
which, in the case of Phil, had now almost under- 
mined his judgment, had gone dangerously far to- 
wards winning his confidence, towards making him 
trust von Hildemaller absolutely. For — see the cun- 
ning of this German — he did not tell our heroes a fact 
unknown to them. He had met a Turkish officer 
who had let fall some indiscreet words with reference 
to British prisoners. The crafty German did not tell 
them that that was Tewfic Pasha, who, meeting the 
German, and, discovering that he already had news 
of such prisoners, had asked him to befriend them. 

Tewfic Pasha himself was ignorant of the rascally 
work von Hildemaller had already perpetrated in the 
case of Douglas Pasha, otherwise he would have been 
on his guard. He distrusted Germans as a general 
rule, but yet, from force of circumstances, was com- 
pelled to trust von Hildemaller. He had taken a 
huge liking for Geoff and his chum, and wished to 
do them a real service, but found himself helpless. 
Here was an intermediary, for surely the German 
would help — this German with the smiling, friendly 
countenance — and von Hildemaller had pledged him- 
self to do so, had eagerly assented to see to the wel- 
fare of Geoff and Philip, and had gone off chuckling, 
scheming — smiling no longer — with a set purpose — 
a purpose to wreak his hatred of all Englishmen upon 
these helpless subalterns. 

And see him there, just within the door of the 
prison, perspiring horribly, mopping his face con- 
stantly, panting, chuckling, smiling — the smile of a 
tiger as he glanced at his two victims. 



Von Hildemaller's Intervention 289 

And Geoff, taken aback by his entry, by his unex- 
pected coming, deceived for a moment by his demon- 
strative goodwill, by his words and his offer of help 
and liberty, almost fell into the net that was spread 
so cleverly for him, almost succumbed to the wiles of 
this Teuton. But his better senses, second thoughts 
if you will, came to the rescue. He remembered von 
Hildemaller's evil reputation, he knew well enough 
what part he had taken in the capture of Joe Douglas 
— for had not Esbul brought the story? — and now, as 
he stared unflinchingly, inquisitively, searching for 
the reason of this visit, into the eyes of the German, he 
saw, right behind them as it were, behind that broad 
smile, the cunning hatred and craft of the man, and 
delight at coming triumph. Then, shifting his gaze 
to Philip of a sudden, he winked, grimaced at him, 
and slowly pulled the gag which he had thrust into 
his pocket into the open. 

Did he intend to take this German's offer? Or did 
he propose some other course? And if so, what 
course? What action would he take? 

A second later what doubts there may have been 
were cleared up in a manner dramatic enough for the 
odious von Hildemaller — stunning in its unexpected- 
ness by swift action which swept the blood from his 
face, and caused those ogling eyes of his almost to 
start from their sockets. For Geoff called in a low 
voice to Philip, and, leaping at the German, threw 
one arm round his neck, and clapped the other hand 
over that cunning mouth which had smiled so widely 
at him. 



(0 834) 19 



CHAPTER XVI 

Breaking Out 

What a picture a snapshot photographic artist could 
have made of that scene in the narrow cell occupied 
by Geoff and Philip for so many weary weeks, and 
into which the unctuous and scheming von Hilde- 
maller had thrust himself so unexpectedly. A por- 
trayal alone of the features of that huge and un- 
wieldy German would by itself have provided a 
picture of consuming interest. That is to say, a 
portrayal of what features were left visible now that 
GeofPs strong muscular hand was tightly clasped 
across them. For above the hand there were left 
merely the closely-cropped head which gave the 
Teuton such an uncouth appearance, a forehead 
broad enough to give the impression of brain- 
power, a pair of eyes, deepset enough as a rule, and 
sparkling with suppressed humour if it happened to 
be a stranger who looked into them, with sup- 
pressed cunning if the observer knew the man, eyes 
now projecting in a hideous manner over the strong 
fingers which gripped below. And below those 
eyes a stubby nose, from which burst gusts of air as 
von Hildemaller grunted his astonishment. Under- 
neath the hand, there was left just an edge of the 
somewhat square and determined chin possessed by 

290 



Breaking Out 291 

this extraordinary individual. As for the rest of him 
— the huge body, the arms, the legs — all were in 
motion, writhing, kicking, plunging, striking out and 
tearing at the captor who gripped him so firmly. 

^*The gag!" Geoff called softly to Philip, who, 
appreciating the situation in an instant, had leapt from 
his position near the door to assist his comrade; " it's 
in my left hand. Jam it into his mouth as I force it 
open." 

In a moment Philip had the gag, and, standing by, 
made ready to introduce it. 

'' Supposing he shouts though?" he asked. 

"He won't," said Geoff abruptly. "When he 
opens his jaws it'll be with a jump, for I'll squeeze 
him. Ready?" 

There was an emphatic nod from Philip, while the 
gay features of the young subaltern were again smiling 
jovially; he was grinning indeed, a grin of pure 
delight and triumph. Then those powerful fingers of 
our hero sought the interval on one cheek between 
the upper and the lower jaw, while his thumb sought 
the similar spot on the other cheek. A second later 
he pressed fingers and thumbs together and shot the 
German's mouth wide open, displaying a huge cavity 
out of which not a sound could come, for even if the 
grip on his jaw had not incapacitated von Hildemaller, 
the grip which Geoff's left arm now had round his bulky 
chest, the crushing power with which he compressed 
it, had driven all the breath out of the Teuton's body. 

"In she goes, pop!" gurgled Philip, thrusting the 
gag in between that double row of yellow teeth. 
" Now we bind her!" 

Quick as a flash he ran the strings from the edge of 



292 On the Road to Bagdad 

the gag out through the corners of the open mouth, 
and bound them tightly behind the German's neck. 
He needed no further instruction from his chum, see- 
ing that the two had discussed the matter so very 
often, had discussed it, let us remember, not in con- 
nection with the tricing up of a visitor — a visitor so 
unexpected as von Hildemaller — but in connection 
with their Turkish jailer. 

** Somehow I'd have been sorry for him," Philip 
murmured, as he seized the blanket-ropes already pre- 
pared, and tied von Hildemaller's wrists behind his 
back. 

''What, this beggar?" 

''No, no! I was thinking of the jailer. I'd have 
been somehow sorry for him, for he's been such a 
decent fellow, such a friendly beggar," corrected 
Philip. " But this chap! Jingo, ain't it jolly!" 

He set about the completion of the job in a manner 
which showed his delight almost better than words 
could do, and in a trice had von Hildemaller's wrists 
most scientifically tied together, and his elbows pulled 
so close that movement of his upper limbs was out of 
the question. Then, at a nod from Geoff, these two 
powerful young fellows gripped the heavy German 
and lifted him, as if he were a babe, to the wooden 
divan. It took, perhaps, another two minutes to 
secure his legs and ankles, and to leave him like a 
helpless bundle. 

"And now?" asked Philip, mopping his forehead, 
for the work had been furious while it lasted. 

" We move!" declared Geoff promptly. " It's get- 
ting dusk already, and it's quite dark in this cell. 
Though, 'pon my word, von Hildemaller's eyes 



Breaking Out 293 

pierce the dusk like gimlets. My word! If only he 
were free and could do his worst for us! Now let's 
put the money we promised the Turk on this table, 
and then go. No time like the present." 

They were indeed in the position of being unable to 
choose the time for the attempt to regain their liberty. 
In any case they were bound to seize the first oppor- 
tunity that came, to seize it whenever it came, regard- 
less of the hour or of the circumstances. But the 
coming of von Hildemaller had forced their hand in a 
manner neither had anticipated. He had, as it were, 
complicated their difficulties; for, now that he was 
secured, trussed like a bird, and laid out helpless, 
there was still the Turkish jailer to be considered — 
the man they had proposed to capture, the man who, 
once shut up in the cell, gagged and triced just as was 
von Hildemaller, would be out of the way, unlikely to 
run up against them in the corridor outside, unable to 
give the alarm and let others know that they were 
escaping. 

*' Can't be helped, the change in our plans," said 
Geoff, as he took another look at the German; ^'just 
squint outside, Phil, and tell me whether there's any- 
one in the corridor. If not, we'll pull off our boots and 
make our way along it in stockinged feet. Of course, 
if the jailer turns up, well, we'll have to be guided by 
circumstances." 

In any case there was no time for discussion, no 
opportunity for making further or other plans, nothing 
to do but seize the opportunity, strike while the iron 
was hot, and free themselves from this prison. To strip 
off their boots and tuck them into their belts was the 
work of a moment, and then, unarmed but strong as 



294 On the Road to Bagdad 

lions — thanks to their own forethought and energy — 
they tiptoed into the corridor outside and stole rapidly 
along it, having gently pulled the iron door of their 
cell to upon the German. Some twenty paces along 
they found themselves at the head of a short flight of 
stone steps, and were quickly at the bottom. A turn 
to the left took them along another corridor, and then 
both suddenly halted. 

'' Voices — men talking— the jailer." 

Philip nodded. 

*'The jailer and that fellow who often visited us 
with him. They're in that room to the left, the door 
of which is ajar, and the sooner we pass it the better." 

Stealing forward again they were soon opposite a 
massive iron door, similar to the one which had closed 
their cell, and, halting for a moment, listened to the 
conversation of the two men within it. Listened long 
enough to assure themselves that they were right, and 
that within the cell their jailer and his friend were 
certainly seated. Then they moved on again, and, 
traversing a long corridor and turning to their right, 
found themselves in a different part of the prison. 
They had reached, in fact, an entrance-hall, as it were, 
out of which a heavy, barred door led, probably to the 
open. 

** Locked and barred," said Geoff, inspecting it 
rapidly and as well as the dusk would allow; ''no 
way out for us there, I think. Now, what happens?" 

''S — sh! Someone coming," whispered Phil, 
"someone coming down the stairs, I think. From 
the sounds he is making he is coming towards us." 

For a moment or two they stared in the direction from 
which the noise of feet descending the stairway had 



Breaking Out 295 

come to them, and then looked desperately about them, 
for not even the dusk in that big entrance-hall would 
prevent them from being discovered once an individual 
was within some yards of them. What were they to 
do? Bolt back towards the cell they had so recently 
vacated? Stand still and chance discovery and recog- 
nition? Or advance and throw themselves upon the 
individual who was approaching? Geoff threw out 
a hand and caught Philip by the sleeve, pulling him 
towards his left, towards the door which he had been 
so recently examining, pulled him in fact into the 
angle the door made with the heavy stone pillar which 
supported it. No one in his wildest thoughts could 
have described it as a safe hiding-place, no one in 
fact in similar circumstances would have willingly 
entrusted his chances of liberty to it, or would have 
leapt at the scanty security it barely offered. Yet it 
was a chance, a chance in a hundred, the only chance 
the occasion could produce, the only spot possible for 
Geoff and Philip. And there together they crouched 
against the stone pillar, wishing that the dusk might 
grow rapidly deeper, and that some friendly shadow 
would cast itself about them and hide them from the 
eyes of the intruder. 

Those seconds which followed were long-drawn-out, 
agonizing seconds, seconds during which the slow, 
plodding, heavy footsteps which they had heard de- 
scending the stairway drew nearer, and nearer, and 
nearer. Then a figure came into view, a figure but 
dimly illuminated, which, reaching the centre of the 
hall, came to a halt, while the man — for undoubtedly 
it was a man — peered about him inquisitively, as if 
seeking for something, as if he too had heard sounds, 



296 On the Road to Bagdad 

sounds which had roused his curiosity and perhaps 
his suspicion. It gave the two young subalterns 
hiding in that shady corner quite an unpleasant start, 
sent quite a chill through their frames when they first 
cast their eyes on that figure. 

"Von Hildemaller!" said Geoff under his breath, 

speaking to himself in fact. *' Now, how ?" 

, Philip moved and nudged his comrade. 

"That beast," Geoff heard him whisper; "he's got 
out somehow! But how? I " 

*^ S— sh ! It's not. It's a Turk, awfully like him," 
Geoff whispered back, putting his lips close to Philip's 
ear. " Not a word more or he may hear us." 

True enough, the figure dallying in the centre of 
the hall was indeed almost a facsimile of that of the 
ponderous von Hildemaller. Of moderate height and 
thickset, his feet encased in Turkish slippers, the 
man's general appearance was alarmingly like that of 
the German, while, dimly to be seen through the dusk 
now settling deeper about the hall, were the ends of a 
pair of moustaches quite as fierce and flowing as those 
proudly flaunted by the German. Only the head was 
different, for it was bald, and perched on the back of 
it was a fez. Evidently, too, if this new-comer had 
had his suspicions roused, if he had actually heard 
sounds as he descended the stairs, he had now brushed 
the matter aside and was prepared to treat it as a 
delusion, as something easily explainable; for he 
moved on again, crossing the stone-flagged hall with 
heavy steps, and passing out into the dusk beyond, in 
the direction from which Geoff and Philip were escap- 
ing. It was then that Geoff mopped his forehead 
with what was left of a somewhat dilapidated and 



Breaking Out 297 



dirty handkerchief, while Philip allowed a breath of 
astonishment to escape his lips in a subdued whistle. 

' * Jingo ! " he exclaimed ; * * that's a near one ! " 

**The Governor!" Geoff said. "The Governor, 
I'm sure. Ponderous and filled with dignity, a regu- 
lar second von Hildemaller. But come along, we've 
no time to wait. Let's move on up the stairs and see 
what sort of a place the fellow came from." 

Still in their stockinged feet, with their boots tucked 
in between their belts and their bodies, the two crossed 
the hall and ran lightly up a stone staircase. Turning 
abruptly as the stairs twisted upward, they presently 
reached a doorway where their further progress was 
barred by a door, framed in iron like that which 
had shut the opening from their cell, every feature of 
which they had studied so completely. 

''Bah!" exclaimed Philip in disgust. ''Trapped 
inside the place." 

" Don't let's shout till we're hurt," said Geoff reso- 
lutely. "Perhaps it isn't locked; we'll try it; here's 
the latch. Hallo! It opens!" 

"And we go through, as a matter of course. 
Wonder what the Governor'd say if he knew that his 
two prisoners were about to investigate his quarters?" 

More stairs faced them, but a short flight, the top 
of which they reached in a few moments, to find 
themselves in a wider corridor from which three or 
four doors gave access to rooms, the first of which 
was spacious and airy, and lit by windows which 
looked down into a central courtyard. The second 
was airy, like the first — even larger — with divans 
spread here and there, and a carpeted floor, while its 
windows, like those of the other room, had a similar 



298 On the Road to Bagdad 

outlook. A hasty inspection of the third showed it 
to be a sleeping apartment, while the fourth provided, 
without doubt, the quarters for the Governor's servant. 

''And the windows? Let's take a squint out of 
them," said Geoff as he crossed the room rapidly 
towards them. ''Beast of a drop, eh?" 

" But possible if one had a rope," said Philip, push- 
ing his head out of the open window and imbibing 
the first breath of fresh air for some weeks past. 
"Bedding's what we want, and food. There was 
some in that big room with the divans." 

For a while they stood peering out of the window 
and measuring the distance between it and the ground 
below — a drop of quite fifty feet, but a drop the bottom 
of which provided open country, a drop which, if it 
could be accomplished, would give them liberty and 
would set them outside the prison. 

"Stop a minute!" said Geoff suddenly, as a thought 
struck him. "There doesn't seem to be another en- 
trance to these quarters, and, seeing that we are in 
occupation for the moment, and can't afford to be 
disturbed, why, we'll lock the Governor out. Let's 
get back to the door at once and see if it's possible." 

The very suggestion set the amiable Philip grin- 
ning; the cheek of such an action delighted him 
intensely, and was just the sort of thing that jovial 
subaltern could appreciate fully. He was out in the 
corridor in a moment, and, running along it in his 
stockinged feet, soon reached the door beyond. Then 
Geoff heard him shoot a couple of bolts, and watched 
as he came smiling back towards him. 

"Case reversed," grinned Philip, as if he were 
making an official report. " Prisoners, a little while 



Breaking Out 299 

before, locked into a cell, are now prisoners no longer, 
but have locked their jailers out. And next, sir? 
What about that food?" 

It was Geoff's turn to smile, for he too had caught 
sight of a dish of fruit in the Governor's sitting-room, 
of some Turkish sweet-cakes, and of a carafe, probably- 
containing water. Better still, the aroma of coffee 
tickled his nostrils as he entered the room occupied 
by the Governor's servants, at the door of which he 
was now standing. A swift glance showed him a 
Turkish brazier, a kettle of Turkish design above it, 
from the opening of which steam issued. He dived 
into the room again and sniffed at that steam, sniffed 
and smacked his lips with appreciation. 

'* Coffee, my boy! All ready!" he said. '^But 
don't let's do things in too great a hurry; let's look 
round first for something with which to make a rope. 
We shall be sorry, of course, to inconvenience the 
Governor, or to damage his property, but the cushions 
over those divans, if cut into strips and twisted, would 
do the trick splendidly; while, if they ain't strong 
enough, there are carpets and rugs which must be 
sacrificed for the purpose." 

''And cushions enough to drop from the window 
and break a fall in case we have to jump for it," 
laughed Philip. ''Let's bring the grub along here, 
and the cushions and what not, then we shall be 
ready in case the alarm is raised; for, once there is 
a hue and cry, sentries, no doubt, will be posted 
outside the building, and long before that we ought 
to be away from it." 

It was tantalizing to have to leave that steaming 
odoriferous coffee, but undoubtedly the question of 



300 On the Road to Bagdad 

safety came first, now that liberty lay within their 
grasp. The two resolutely put all other thoughts 
aside, and rapidly made their preparations to ac- 
complish their object. Magnificently embroidered 
cushions decked the divans in the Governor's sitting- 
room. There were rugs, too, which were perhaps of 
priceless value — Turkish rugs which, it may be, had 
been manufactured years before, and would have 
commanded in London or any European city a fabu- 
lous sum, far beyond the somewhat shallow depths 
of a subaltern's pocket. 

''Sorry! Frightfully!" Philip grinned, as he de- 
liberately slit one of the cushion-covers — a cushion, 
by the way, not of ordinary dimensions, but some 
seven feet in length and as many broad; a regular 
mattress, indeed, upon which, no doubt, the bulky 
Governor was wont to recline during his moments of 
leisure. It may have been the act of a vandal to 
destroy such a handsome covering, and at any other 
time, no doubt, Philip would have hesitated, for he 
was not such a scamp that he would deliberately 
destroy goods of such value and elegance. 

''But it's our liberty or the Governor's goods," he 
grinned a little sheepishly at Geoff, as he dug the 
blade of his knife in again and sent the stuff ripping. 

Nor was his comrade behindhand in the work, and 
already had stripped another of the enormous cushions. 
Perhaps it took them ten minutes, perhaps even longer, 
to construct from the strips of strong material a twisted 
rope made up of a number of lengths firmly knotted 
together, knots which they tested by a form of tug-of- 
war, dragging at opposite ends of their rope to be 
sure that it would provide a safe means of descent 



Breaking Out 301 

to the bottom of their prison. Then, lashing one end 
fast to the stone window-post, and coiling the other 
end in preparation, they went once more to the 
Governor's room, and staggered back again carrying 
a number of those huge cushions. 

*'And now for coffee and something to eat!" said 
Geoff. "What we can't finish now of the fruit and 
cakes we'll carry with us. Better still, as we're not 
particularly hungry at the moment, supposing we 
drink the coffee, which will take only a few moments, 
and finish the other when we have secured our liberty." 

They had poured out two steaming cups of coffee, 
and were sniffing the contents with delight, when a 
sudden shout, a clamour in some portion of the prison, 
caused them to arrest the progress of the cups to their 
lips and listen. There were more shouts, a howl from 
some distant quarter, and then a loud hammering. 
As if determined not to be upset by any sort of com- 
motion, and not to be robbed of a golden oppor- 
tunity—for such coffee as this now underneath their 
noses had not been tasted by our two heroes during 
the long weeks of their captivity — Geoff resolutely 
raised his cup to his lips and drained the contents, 
smacking his lips afterwards in a manner not perhaps 
too polite, but very indicative of his feelings. Philip 
followed suit, and, gripping the kettle, replenished 
both cups, as if determined that he too would not be 
hurried. Then, setting the empty cups down beside 
the stove, they left the room, and, darting along the 
passage, peered out of the windows which gave access 
to the courtyard. 

There were men down below — Turkish soldiers — 
some fully dressed and some in their shirt-sleeves. 



302 On the Road to Bagdad 

They were running hither and thither as though con- 
fused, and as though ignorant of the cause of the 
alarm which had just been given. Then, as Geoff 
and Phihp looked, a door to their right at the foot of 
the courtyard was suddenly torn open, and a figure 
rolled rather than ran out, a man who tripped on the 
lowest step and fell face downward, only to bound to 
his feet again and rush off till he was in amongst the 
soldiers. Undoubtedly there was something behind 
him which was accelerating his progress, and which 
had made his entrance into the courtyard anything 
but dignified, abrupt, in fact, startlingly sudden and 
unexpected. It was something which appeared within 
a moment, someone who dashed after the unfortunate 
jailer, a fat man, wearing a fez at the back of his 
head — undoubtedly the Turkish governor — followed 
by another of similar proportions, broad and stout 
and beefy, with closely cropped head, a man who 
shouted and hurled threats through the doorway. 

^*Von Hildemaller!" gasped Geoff. ** Someone's 
discovered him, someone's set him free! Perhaps it 
was the jailer." 

^^Or perhaps the Governor," Philip added. ^*He 
must have known that von Hildemaller was coming 
to see us ; he must have given him permission. That's 
it, and when he came down the steps to the hall he 
was on the way to see what had happened. Lor'! 
what a shock he must have had when he discovered 
our German friend tied up like a bundle, and the two 
prisoners usually in that cell disappeared, gone 
entirely." 

For a few moments the two watched the Governor 
and the German as they raged amongst the soldiers 



Breaking Out 



^^6 



in the courtyard. Catching- the unfortunate jailer, 
they beat him with their fists unmercifully, and no 
doubt, had one of them possessed a weapon, or had 
they thought to borrow a rifle from one of the soldiers, 
they would have shot him. Instead, they vented 
their fury on the man by beating him, and when he 
fell to the ground, so as to escape their blows, they 
kicked him in the most furious manner. As one 
can imagine, too, their anger, the shouts to which 
they gave vent, the sudden apparition of the jailer 
and his two tormentors, did not tend to lessen the 
agitation and perplexity of the Turkish soldiers. 
Even now, nothing had been said by which they could 
gather precisely what had happened, for there had 
been no mention of the two British prisoners, of their 
escape, and of the curious position in which von 
Hildemaller had been discovered. Breathless, and 
not a little fearful, they watched the scene going on 
in their midst, waiting for some word which would 
clear up the situation ; and suddenly it came, when 
von Hildemaller and the Governor were breathless 
after their exertions, were satisfied with the blows 
and kicks they had rained on the jailer. It was the 
Governor, in fact, who suddenly recollected that his 
first business should have been to seek for the pri- 
soners, for the jailer was always there, and could be 
punished on some future occasion. He suddenly 
swung round upon the startled soldiers and bawled 
orders at them. 

"The prisoners," he bellowed, "the two British 
prisoners; they have escaped, I tell you! You num- 
skulls, why have you not guessed it? Ah, but per- 
haps you are in collusion with this wretched jailer! 



304 On the Road to Bagdad 

Search the prison! Search every part of it! Be off 
with you! Give me a rifle, so that I may go to my 
quarters and there watch for these young ruffians. 
Come, von Hildemaller," he said, gripping the sleeve 
of the perspiring German, *'to my quarters. From 
there every part of this courtyard and of the ground 
outside is visible. If we clamber to the roof there is 
none who may leave the place without our seeing him. 
Snatch a rifle from one of these fools and come with 
me. Then, should the prisoners elect to leave whilst 
we are watching, you will be able to put in a shot 
which will punish them for what has happened." 

**Time to be going," Geoff told Phil, and his chum 
agreed with an emphatic nod which showed his will- 
ingness. 

**Then out with the rope. It's lighter here than it 
seemed to be in the courtyard; but no matter, we've 
got to make the best of it, and, I can tell you, it will 
want quite a lot to stop us." 

*' It will!" the enthusiastic Phil admitted, with one 
of his happy, encouraging smiles. '^You may take 
it from me, my boy, it ain't going to be von Hilde- 
maller — or whatever's his name — or any Turk that's 
going to lag me this time if I can help it. There 
goes the rope and another cushion. Jingo! They've 
landed splendidly, and I believe if this old rope lets 
us down, and breaks of a sudden, we should land quite 
comfortably at the bottom. Who goes first — you?" 

** Either. I don't mind. Out you go — you're 
nearest." 

Phil made no bones about the matter, and wasted 
no time and no breath in attempting to argue the 
question. He was on the window-sill in a moment. 



Breaking Out 305 

and, swinging himself out, gripped the rope, and with 
splendid youthful assurance at once trusted his life to 
it. Geoff watched him slithering down, stopping every 
few feet as his hands and feet came into contact with 
the knots they had made, till at last he was at the 
bottom. 

Meanwhile the shouts and noise about the prison 
had increased in proportion if anything, while sounds, 
echoed by the stone, vault-like walls of the place 
and the large corridors, came even to the Governor's 
quarters. Steps could be heard on the stairs which 
led to the door — now firmly bolted — and the panting 
of at least two individuals. Then blows were rained 
upon it, and voices shouted to those within to open. 
The Turkish governor — for undoubtedly it was he, 
with von Hildemaller at his elbow — ^jerked angry 
threats through the keyhole, and bellowed loud 
orders to his servants to admit him. And had Geoff 
been able to watch the scene he would have observed 
the worthy von Hildemaller leaning against the stone 
door-post, his face a purplish colour, his nose shining, 
his eyes, still prominent, flashing angrily and indi- 
cating the temper and hatred which consumed him, 
while his wide lips were set apart, the moustache — 
that moustache so disagreeably stained with the smoke 
of cigarettes — was distinctly bristling, and the teeth 
were set in a snarl which, had the Turkish governor 
had time to take note of it, would perhaps have scared 
him considerably. For the rest, the German was out 
of breath, utterly unnerved by what had happened, 
positively shaking in every limb, perspiring more 
heavily than he had ever done before, and spasmodic- 
ally dabbing at his face with his red handkerchief. 
{ c 834 ) 20 



3o6 On the Road to Bagdad 

^'Open, fools, dolts, wretches!" shouted the Gover- 
nor, and then turned despairingly to the German. 

"What — what next?" demanded von Hildemaller 
fiercely, panting half-way through the sentence. 

*' There's something wrong. I cannot make these 
dolts of servants of mine hear me. The place is locked, 
and yet I left the door unlatched when I came down to 
visit you but a few moments ago. The thing is inex- 
plicable." 

If the Turkish governor found the matter hard of 
understanding and difficult to explain, the wily, cun- 
ning von Hildemaller rapidly saw to the bottom of it. 
A man such as he, gifted with a scheming brain, was 
just the one to realize that prisoners interned in such 
a place and escaped from their cell were yet not at 
large nor at liberty. This was just the reckless sort of 
thing that those British subalterns would do. It was 
like their effrontery to usurp the place of the Governor 
himself and secrete themselves in his quarters. 

*'Bah!" he yelped in the face of the Turk. ''Then 
your servants are not the only dolts and fools that I 
know of. Can you not see that the door has been 
locked from within — or rather bolted? You are shut 
out of your own quarters, and by whom? By whom, 
tell me? By none other than those two whom we are 
seeking. Break the door open! Beat it in! Call for 
men to bring hammers!" 

It was indeed time for Geoff to be moving, for if the 
Governor and his companion were making a consider- 
able din outside that door, shouts were coming from 
other parts of the prison. Those of the soldiers who 
had not entirely lost their heads, or who had not abso- 
lutely been bereft of their better senses by the violence 



Breaking Out 307 

of the Governor and the German, were now making a 
complete search of the place, while some of them were 
at that moment dragging the outside door of the prison 
open. Geoff clambered through the window, gripped 
the knotted rope, and began to slide rapidly down- 
wards. Yet he was not to reach the ground without 
a further, if only a small, adventure; for that impro- 
vised rope, strained as it had been by supporting 
Philip's weight, succumbed to that of our hero. It 
parted at one of the knots a foot above his head and 
some thirty from the ground, and a moment later 
Geoff found himself plunging on to one of those 
cushions which they had so thoughtfully dropped to 
provide against such an occasion. There Philip 
gripped him and steadied him, helping him to his 
feet. 

** What now?" he asked. 

** Round to the back of the prison. I heard some 
of the beggars pulling the front door open. Thank 
goodness, it's getting darker every second, and if we 
can only hide for some five or ten minutes we shall be 
safe for to-night at least. Lor'! Look at the fruit 
I had in my pocket — smashed to a pulp." 

Philip shook him, and then the two turned away 
from the scene of their escape and ran softly along 
beside the wall of the prison. Gaining the farther 
end, they turned a corner, and then, at a suggestion 
from Geoff, Philip ran on to the opposite corner. 
Thus they were able to watch two sides of the prison, 
and could warn one another if an enemy were ap- 
proaching. Fortune favoured them, favoured those 
two young fellows who had so cleverly achieved their 
escape, and the darkness, settling down over the 



3o8 On the Road to Bagdad 

country, safely hid them from view, while the noise 
of the searchers within and without the prison sub- 
sided. 

** And now?" asked Philip, when it was quite cer- 
tain that they were not likely to be apprehended. 

**Oh ! 'Now,' well, that wants some deciding." 

Geoff scratched his dishevelled head of hair and 
pondered, for indeed the matter was one which would 
have taxed the wisdom of an older man — even the 
cunning of von Hildemaller. For they were out in 
the open, free of their cell it was true, but yet in an 
enemy country, surrounded by Turks, without a friend 
to appeal to. Yet what they had done so far gave 
them encouragement for the future. 

''We'll have to be like that Mr. Micawber of 
Dickens," said Phil, as they crouched beside the wall, 
"we'll just have to wait for something to turn up, 
and you bet your boots something's bound to." 



CHAPTER XVII 

The Road to Bagdad 

Free from prison, after an adventure the success of 
which might well stimulate them to greater effort, to 
greater daring, and give them hopes beyond any they 
had possessed during the weary weeks of waiting 
which had passed, it was yet not by any means certain 
that Geoff Keith and his chum Philip would ever win 
their way back to that Expeditionary Force with which 
they had landed in Mesopotamia. It was weeks and 
weeks, and it seemed to them years, since they had 
been captured with Esbul at Nasiriyeh; and though 
their jailer had not been entirely uncommunicative — for 
at heart he was quite a genial fellow, and the thought 
of reward warmed his heart wonderfully — yet they had 
failed to hear of the easy, bloodless capture of Amara. 
Indeed, all tidings of the Mesopotamian invading force 
had ceased; and whether it had retired, whether it 
still hung on to the banks of the River Tigris, what 
its fortunes were now, were withheld from them. 

*' If we don't get out soon there won't be an English- 
man left in the whole of Mesopotamia," Philip 
grumbled one day during their long and tedious im- 
prisonment, when he was perhaps a trifle bilious, and 
feeling out of sorts and out of temper. ^* Everything's 
wrong". 

309 



3IO On the Road to Bagdad 

And Geoff had grinned at him, an irritating grin, 
which had roused the irate PhiHp to a state of anger 
which set him stuttering, and which caused him to 
clench those powerful fists of his — made powerful by 
the exercises he and Geoff practised. But just as 
suddenly as his cheeks had flamed with anger, just as 
quickly as he had allowed natural vexation and irrita- 
tion to get the better of him, Philip's better sense, his 
honest heart, his real affection for his chum, caused 
him suddenly to beam upon him. 

''I'm in a rotten humour," he told him, "just the 
sort of humour in which a fellow grumbles, asks 
* What's the good of anything?' and grouses *Nuffin'.'* 

"I've felt the same often enough," Geoff told him, 
"and I dare say you've known it, and have seen what 
a nasty sulky beast I could be. You see, fellows 
chained up like this, close together in a cell, get to 
know all there is that's worth knowing about a chap 
— all the good side, you know." 

" And a precious deal of the bad side too," grinned 
Philip. "Trust a campaign to show up a man from 
every point of view. People say that aboard-ship life 
is the most trying of existences; but I imagine that 
one of those Arctic Expeditions of ours, when a 
hundred men, perhaps, are bottled up in winter 
quarters for months together, must try officers and 
men to the last extremity, must prove their good 
feelings and temper, and must bring them back to 
safety comrades for life — friends who will never be 
forgotten." 

Doubtless the fact of hearing nothing of the Ex- 
peditionary Force did try the nerves and the temper 
of the two prisoners in their cell extremely. Yet 



The Road to Bagdad 311 

what mattered such a trial now? Now that they were 
out of their prison ; now that they had dropped from 
the window of the Governor's quarters; now that they 
had worsted that odious fellow, von Hildemaller — 
that mass of perspiring flesh and fat, that ogling, 
cunning, scheming German? 

^' Jingo!" Philip kept on repeating, as he and Geoff 
crouched by the wall, and then let go a chuckle. 
*'To think that we've done that von what's his name 
— Hilde something " 

''Mailer," grunted Geoff, sniffing his contempt of 
the fellow. "And now?" 

"That's what I keep asking, now?" 

"Well, we've the whole of Mesopotamia," Geoff 
told him a little politely, a little icily in fact. 

" Right oh ! Then all we've got to do is to choose 
some spot in it. Of course one naturally selects a 
part now occupied by our fellows." 

Naturally enough that was the choice which any 
British officer or man would have made under similar 
circumstances. But where was the Expeditionary 
Force which had sailed from India, and which had 
fought its way by now into the heart of Mesopotamia? 
Unbeknown to these two young subalterns, it had 
driven a path up the banks of the River Tigris to- 
wards Kut-el-Amara — some hundred and fifty miles 
above Amara itself — and well on the road to Bagdad 
— the Mesopotamian Mecca, a city, almost a holy city 
in the eyes of the Arabs of that part, to which their 
eyes were attracted far more than to Constantinople. 
Driven from Nasiriyeh, from Basra, from every place 
down-stream on the banks of the Shatt-el-Arab, of 
the Tigris and of the Euphrates, the Turks, neverthe- 



312 On the Road to Bagdad 

less, had not abandoned Mesopotamia. They were in 
strong force at Kut, in prepared positions, engineered, 
sketched, and arranged by German instructors. And 
there, to be precise, some seven miles to the east of 
Kut, the enemy took up his position astride the River 
Tigris, extending his trenches to some six miles from 
the left bank of the river. Yet, in spite of those deep- 
dug trenches which gave such security from shell-fire, 
in spite of wired entanglements which might have 
aroused the envy of Germans in Flanders and Poland, 
notwithstanding preparations made without haste and 
hurry, and over a country which gave wonderful 
assistance, the enemy was defeated. 

The same dash, the same almost reckless bravery 
of the British and Indians, the same natural, friendly 
rivalry between those two races of soldiers, sent them 
forward against the Turkish trenches like an ava- 
lanche, caused them to turn the position, and rapidly 
effected the capture of Kut-el-Amara. Not only that, 
it effected at the same moment the capture of the 
northern end of the Kut-el-Hai, that watercourse 
running roughly north and south between the Tigris 
and the Euphrates Rivers, and which, unknown to 
the British, had permitted the Turks to reinforce their 
post at Nasiriyeh, and collect that army at Shaiba, 
which had threatened the rear of the Expeditionary 
Force when in the neighbourhood of Kurnah. It may 
be said, indeed, that the Expeditionary Force had now 
captured a solid wedge of Mesopotamia, a wedge of 
land with its base pointing towards Bagdad, its lines 
of communication open — for the Tigris allowed of 
shipping reaching the British force at Kut as easily 
and almost as safely as that shipping had been able 



The Road to Bagdad 313 

to reach Kurnah. For the Tigris was still deep and 
wide, though not entirely free of sand-banks. As to 
the size of this wedge — Nasiriyeh was secured, Ahwaz, 
the head of the Persian pipe-line, was in our hands, 
and there remained Bagdad alone — a jewel which 
must have strongly tempted the British Commanders. 
An expedition to that city, its capture in fact, would 
no doubt result in the crash of Turkish influence in 
Mesopotamia, would win over thousands of Arabs 
now wavering and prepared to join the side which 
looked like winning, and would inevitably destroy all 
German influence. 

For many reasons then Bagdad was a magnet, a 
magnet which drew the Expeditionary Force on- 
ward. And in the heat of summer, even as Geoff and 
Philip were making that adventurous escape, British 
and Indians were once more on the move from Kut 
en route for Bagdad, hoping to capture the city. 
Whether such an expedition were justified, whether 
the risks of an advance along the River Tigris to the 
city of Bagdad were out of proportion to the advan- 
tages to be gained, and whether those in command 
were fully informed as to the strength of Turkish 
troops before them, one cannot venture an opinion, 
seeing that at this date little information has been 
published, little indeed more than the fact that such 
an advance took place, and its sequel. 

If, however, actual news of our troops in Mesopo- 
tamia at this time is meagre, and if a cloud covers 
their operations and leaves us in doubt as to what has 
actually happened, we have yet left to us news of 
Geoff and Philip, and of others who participate in this 
story. There is, for instance, the stout, perspiring, 



314 On the Road to Bagdad 

and odious von Hildemaller. Boiling with rage, per- 
spiring indescribably, he leant against that door out- 
side the quarters of the Turkish governor, mopping 
his face perpetually with that red handkerchief, while 
he gripped the rifle he had seized from one of the 
Turkish soldiers, and glared from it towards the 
Governor. 

*'And — and — you are fooling me," he shouted at 
last, when he had got his breath; for that dash into 
the courtyard, the blows he had levelled at the un- 
fortunate jailer, and his race from thence to the hall 
of the prison and up those stairs had left him gasp- 
ing. *'What means this?" he demanded. '*You 
give me free entry into a cell in which these brutes 
are imprisoned; you — you — allow them to set upon 
me, to tie me hand and foot, to gag me, and now — 
now — you bring me here to be faced with a door that 
is barred and bolted, when you should have taken me 
to some other place from which I could have shot 
down those ruffians." 

Of a truth, the Teuton was positively boiling over 
with wrath, indignation, and disappointment. Never 
before, in a somewhat long life, devoted in these 
latter years to crafty plotting, had von Hildemaller 
been so worsted. Like every other man, he had had 
his ups and downs to be sure, his failures and his suc- 
cesses; but of late, since the "All Highest", since the 
Kaiser had set his ambitious eye on Turkey, had ogled 
the Sultan, brow-beaten his particular adherents, and 
had gained the ear of the Young Turk Party, since, 
in fact, the influence of the Germans and of Germany 
had risen to such heights in Turkey, von Hildemaller 
had become quite an important person, one to be con- 



The Road to Bagdad 315 

sidered, an agent of the Kaiser to whom no doors 
were shut, who claimed entry anywhere and on any 
occasion. Yet here, when he had thought to succeed 
so easily, when he had planned to add these two 
British subalterns to that Douglas Pasha — then in 
prison — why, see here, the door was banged in his 
face, the tables had been turned most distinctly upon 
him, and all his plans had been shattered. 

'* I — it is monstrous!" he shouted, using the native 
tongue but indifferently, his words bearing a strong 
Teutonic accent. ''Are you, too, in the plot? Did 
you then plan for them to seize me? I — I " 

The poor fellow was stuttering more than ever, his 
flabby cheeks were positively shaking, while his whole 
person was quivering. It looked almost as if he would 
have thrown himself upon the Governor, that other 
stout man staring back at him now in frightened 
manner. No doubt, too, had von Hildemaller had 
breath sufficient for the task, he would have vented 
his wrath upon the Turk promptly. But, as it was, 
he cast the rifle on the stone steps and sent it clatter- 
ing down into the hall below. Then, wobbling badly, 
his knees shaking after such unusual exertion, per- 
spiring still in horrible fashion, and displaying that 
particularly close-cropped pate, he went off after the 
rifle, stumbling down the steps and into the hall, and 
from there out into the open. It was almost dark 
then, and for a while he stood still, blowing heavily, 
and enjoying the evening breeze as it played about 
his heated features. Then he gave vent to a faint 
and somewhat subdued whistle, and repeated it a 
moment later. A figure slid up from some dark 
corner and stood beside him. 



3i6 On the Road to Bagdad 

'' Master," he said, *'you whistled." 

'' Whistled? Yes, twice, and you were not there at 
the first summons," snarled von Hildemaller, delighted 
to have someone else upon whom he could turn his 
wrath and vexation. " How now? Where are these 
prisoners? You saw them escape from the place? 
You followed them, eh?" 

*' Prisoners?" said the man, startled, stepping back 
a pace or two, so that a gleam of light, flashing 
through the open door of the prison from a lantern 
which had now been lighted, fell upon him. 
' ' Prisoners? But " 

*' But — prisoners, fool!" the German retorted, eyeing 
the man severely as he stood in the lamp-light. *' You 
did not follow them then ; you allowed them to escape 
without troubling?" 

His tones were even more angry as he watched the 
man ; while those beams of light, as they fell upon the 
German's companion, showed the features of that same 
rascal who had answered his signal in the Bazaar at 
Bagdad at that time when Major Joe Douglas had 
accosted von Hildemaller. Without a shade of doubt, 
indeed, this Turk was the ruffian who was in the hire 
of the German, who was ready to carry out any piece 
of villainy for him. Esbul knew it; that old Jew 
whom Douglas Pasha had questioned in the Bazaar 
at Bagdad knew it too; while the cautious yet seem- 
ingly unsuspicious Douglas Pasha knew it better, 
knew it so well that he had made that hurried depar- 
ture from Bagdad, knew it better still now, seeing 
that it was thanks to this rascal, and the German, that 
he lay in prison. 

No doubt, had the man not been of such great use 



The Road to Bagdad 317 

to von Hildemaller, the latter would then and there 
have vented all his wrath and vexation on him ; but 
if the German were angry he was still not so furious 
that he was altogether bereft of common sense and 
caution. Caution, indeed, was something which had 
helped the Teuton to be successful ; it was his hard- 
headed common sense and cunning which had made 
of him such a plotter, and now that same common 
sense caused his anger to evaporate. In any case 
he became calm, and stood for a moment or so 
considering deeply. 

*' Listen, my friend!" he said at last, his tone 
completely changed. " You did well. You sat here, 
you tell me, and heard nothing. Then I will tell you 
what has happened. The two prisoners we sought 
are gone — escaped within a few minutes of my gain- 
ing the prison ; they are nowhere to be found, and we 
must seek them. Tell me now, you who are clever in 
such matters, supposing you to be in their place, and 
to have shaken yourself free of the prison, whither 
would you turn? What quarter?" 

The man answered him promptly, without a thought 
it seemed. 

''Bagdad, Master." 

*' And nowhere else?" 

*' And nowhere else," the man repeated. 

''Then in Bagdad you believe that we shall trace 
them?" 

"I do. Master, and the sooner we can make our 
way there the better." 

Early on the following morning, in fact, von Hilde- 
maller could have been discovered in a shaky old 
country vehicle, drawn by a dilapidated pony, being 



3i8 On the Road to Bagdad 

rattled over an incredibly rough road close to that 
city. Perched on the driving-seat was the rascal 
whom he had encountered outside the prison on the 
previous evening. A picturesque rascal to be sure, 
for there was nothing about this man which denoted 
his calling. Very soon they entered the gates, and 
were swallowed up amidst the narrow, tortuous streets 
of the city, and finally gained the quarters habitually 
occupied by the German. Yet we have to recount 
the fact that, quietly as these two had entered Bag- 
dad, unostentatiously as they had made their way 
through the streets, much as they had sought to 
escape observation, yet one at least had watched their 
coming. It was that tall, skinny, bony Jew, who sat, 
as ever, it seemed, cross-legged on his stall, perched 
like a bird of evil omen above those embroidered 
goods, the sale of which appeared to trouble him so 
little. His beady eyes marked the passing of that 
clattering vehicle and recognized, while they appeared 
to be looking at nothing, the picturesque rascal who 
drove it, and took in in a single fleeting glance the 
fat features of the German. 

'*So, that man — the one who tracked Douglas 

Pasha " he muttered, appearing to address the 

words rather to the embroidered goods he had for 
disposal than to any particular person. ''Coffee, 
boy!" he called, clapping his hands. "Coffee, that 
I may sip it and think." 

Almost motionless, merely his eyelids blinking, 
while occasionally his long fingers played over the 
wares on his stall, the Jew waited for the coffee, and 
then, taking the cup with a deliberation peculiar to 
him, lifted it slowly to his lips and sipped it thought- 



The Road to Bagdad 319 

fully. It was at such times, too, that this curious old 
man, who had such a strong liking for Douglas Pasha, 
looked above the rim of the egg-shaped cup and cast 
his glance over the Bazaar. It masked his movements, 
as it were, and that cup disguised the fact, from any 
who might be looking, that he was interested in his 
immediate surroundings. Not that the man saw any- 
thing in particular, merely walls, merely long shadows 
cast by a brilliant sun, and stalls upon which other 
figures rested much as he did — motionless figures, 
men apparently indifferent to their success in busi- 
ness, for not an effort did they make to attract the 
attention of would-be purchasers and extract money 
from them. 

*' So!" he muttered again into the coffee-cup. ** That 
man is back, and I have heard tales of a journey to 
another prison. Perhaps Esbul may give information; 
perhaps he followed. Who knows? We will wait 
till the evening." 

And wait the old man did, placidly, with not the 
smallest show of impatience, till the shadows 
lengthened, till dusk fell over the Bazaar, and until 
other merchants were closing their places of business. 
Then, having seen his stall shut by the boy who did 
jobs small and large for him, the Jew tottered away 
from the place, dived into a narrow alley, and wriggled 
his way to a house at some distance. Entering this 
from a courtyard at the back, he rapped twice with his 
stick on the floor, and waited for an answer. 

*'What then?" a voice asked cautiously from the 
top of a flight of stairs^ ''Who is that?" 

' ' A friend ! " the Jew replied, and ascended promptly. 
Gaining a room at the top of the flight of stairs he sat 



320 On the Road to Bagdad 

down on a divan, and then turned to the man who 
stood before him. 

*^ So they have come — that German and the ruffian," 
he said. '* You saw them, Esbul?" 

Esbul nodded. 

'* I saw them; they passed to their old quarters." 

**And maybe you know from whence?" the Jew 
asked. 

'*Not so," Esbul told him. ''They slipped from 
the city unbeknown to me, and were gone while I was 
sleeping. But — but — I have a feeling that they were 
bent on business which concerned my master, or which 
concerned those two who were captured with me at 
Nasiriyeh." 

There was silence for some long while in that room, 
for the Jew was not given to much talking. Instead, 
he ate his humble evening meal slowly and thought- 
fully, gazing at the opposite wall as if he could read 
there the mystery of Douglas Pasha's whereabouts, of 
the prison in fact where von Hildemaller had caused 
him to be sent. Let it be remembered, too, that 
though this Jew had means of learning much of what 
was happening, had learned, indeed, that Geoff and 
Phil had been incarcerated somewhere outside the 
city, yet he had no knowledge of the German's move- 
ments, did not dream, in fact, that von Hildemaller 
had so recently visited the place where they were held, 
and did not suspect his mission. But he guessed that 
the Teuton's exit from the city and return had some- 
thing to do with Douglas Pasha, though it might not 
be directly. He hated this German — hated all Ger- 
mans in fact — for, Armenian Jew though he was, 
Turkey was his country, and, as a wise man, he 



The Road to Bagdad 321 

realized that Germany's interest in it was not dis- 
interested. But the subject of Douglas Pasha touched 
him even more deeply, for he was devoted to the 
Englishman, had received much kindness from him, 
had, in days past, to thank him for an act which 
saved his life — a deed of bravery which might have 
cost Douglas Pasha his own quite easily. That was 
the secret of the Jew's attachment to this British 
officer, the secret of his solicitude for his safety, and 
part of the reason for his detestation of von Hilde- 
maller. He turned after a while, solemnly and slowly, 
upon Esbul, who meantime had waited for him to 
speak, with too great a respect for the aged Jew to 
disturb him. 

*' My son," he said, and the beady old eyes flickered 
wisely at Esbul, '' there has been a deep plot hatching 
in these parts, and the German has been weaving 
a web to cast about these British people. As I, a 
good Armenian Jew and subject of the Sultan — though 
he has sorely ill-treated us Armenians — as I hate this 
German, so he loathes all those British. He fears the 
influence of Douglas Pasha amongst the Turks; when 
there was no war he feared him, for even against their 
will our Turkish pashas could not help having a 
liking for the Briton, while for this Teuton they had 
nothing but contempt. Thus von Hildemaller was 
jealous of Douglas Pasha, feared his strength, and 
made plans to rid Bagdad and Mesopotamia of him. 
The chance came when war burst over the land, and 
the German seized it. Yet, surrounded by enemies 
as he was, Douglas Pasha evaded the danger for a 
while, evaded it till the hirelings of von Hildemaller 
tracked him down and cast their net about him. Then, 

(C8S4) 21 



322 On the Road to Bagdad 

but for those Turkish friends of our master, but for 
the news of Douglas Pasha's capture which I sent 
swiftly to them, the German would have killed him. 
Against the wishes of the Turks he could do no such 
thing, and therefore had to be content with his im- 
prisonment. Now see what follows: the ward of 
Douglas Pasha is captured also, and with him a com- 
panion. The news comes to the ears of this scheming 
German. He can do no worse, for the time being at 
any rate, to Douglas Pasha himself, but he can hurt 
him through this young soldier — this young officer 
who is dear to him. Who knows? It may be that 
his journey outside the city was to secure the person 
of young Geoffrey Keith. Who knows? But it is 
likely." 

'' More than likely," Esbul told him respectfully. 

**That we shall learn in time," the Jew answered. 
** I have ways of gathering news unknown to you — 
unknown to anyone, in fact. We shall learn. But 
you, Esbul, in the meantime you will set a watch 
upon these people, will disguise yourself and hover 
about the streets of the city, and perchance it may be 
that information will come to you sooner than to me, 
in which case you will be lucky." 

Esbul, indeed, might consider himself an extremely 
well-favoured individual if it turned out that he was 
more successful in unearthing the secret doings of 
von Hildemaller than was Benshi, this aged Jew, this 
extraordinarily silent man who hovered the day long 
over his embroidered wares, and seemed to take no 
interest in things outside his narrow stall, and to 
possess no energy for doing so; for, indeed, Benshi 
was a deep, discreet, and clever individual — one to 



The Road to Bagdad 323 

whom tales came in the most uncanny manner, to 
whom reports of doings outside the city of Bagdad 
were sent almost before they reached the Governor's 
palace. And yet the exact whereabouts of Douglas 
Pasha was hidden from him ; while beyond the fact 
that Geoff and Philip had been imprisoned — a fact 
communicated by Esbul — he had no knowledge of 
them. 

Donning a garb which was calculated to deceive 
easily any who might meet him, Esbul slipped out 
of the house that evening and plunged into the in- 
tricacies of the thoroughfares of the city. No need 
for him to seek for the quarters of von Hildemaller, 
for they were already known to him, and no need, 
therefore, to ask questions. But arrived at the house 
— one detached from its fellows, standing aloof and 
alone in a compound — there was little to encourage 
him to wait, nothing to prove that the German and 
the arch -scoundrel he employed were in residence. 
Not a light flickered from the windows, not a gleam 
came through a crack in the shutters ; the place was 
clad in darkness, while not a sound came from it. 

*^ But yet it may be that they are there, these crafty 
fellows," thought Esbul; ''we'll see, we'll investigate 
the premises carefully." 

To clamber over the containing wall was an easy 
matter, while the drop on the far side was nothing. 
With stealthy steps the Armenian passed round the 
house, squinting in through keyholes, staring at the 
shutters, seeking for something which might prove 
of interest. Yet, though he spent a good half-hour 
in the compound, not a sound reached his ears, and 
nothing rewarded his efforts. 



324 On the Road to Bagdad 

Meanwhile, one may wonder what had happened to 
Geoff and Philip after their adventurous escape from 
the Governor's quarters of the prison. 

** Where now, then?" asked Philip, darkness hav- 
ing fallen completely. *' I say, Geoff, I'm sorry about 
that fall of yours and the fruit, for the supply I've 
brought is precious scanty; let's finish it now, and 
then consider matters." 

It was, indeed, rather an unfortunate thing that 
the breaking of the rope and Geoff's fall upon the 
cushions — which they had had forethought enough to 
drop out of the Governor's window — had resulted in 
the pulping of the supply of fruit he was carrying on 
his person. Yet, if they were deprived of that, they 
had gained something immeasurably greater, for they 
had gained their liberty. 

** And mean to keep it now," Geoff was whispering 
to himself, as they crouched beside the wall of the 
prison. '* But what to do, where to go, and how to 
fare now that we are free?" 

It was, indeed, rather a problem, and yet not so 
difficult after all ; for, consider, Bagdad, they knew — 
they had learned from their jailer — was within a day's 
march of them, and Bagdad was just as much a 
magnet to these two young subalterns as it was to 
any Arab or any Turk in Mesopotamia — just as much 
a magnet, indeed, as it was to the British Expedi- 
tionary Force then fighting its way towards the city 
from Kut-el-Amara. 

**Of course it's got to be done; we've got to get 
to Bagdad," Geoff exclaimed, when they had finished 
their small supply of fruit. ^* Next question is — in 
what direction?" 



The Road to Bagdad 325 

Philip scratched his head; it was, indeed, a problem 
which floored him. 

** Which direction, eh?" he muttered. ''Yes, that 
does want deciding, for I've no notion." 

" But here's an idea — a good idea, too," said Geoff. 
*' Naturally enough the prison must be on some road, 
else how would one get to it? How could we have 
been driven here?" 

''Brilliant! Of course, naturally enough — on a road. 
We look for it." 

"Quite so; we look for it, and then " 

"Then we march along it, eh?" Philip told him 
cheerfully. 

" Which direction?" asked Geoff satirically. " Sup- 
posing it runs west and east, do we turn west or east? 
And if north and south, which way, please, Philip?" 

It was Philip's turn again to cogitate, to scratch his 
head even harder, and to wonder. It made him quite 
irritable and angry when he discovered how hopeless 
the situation really was; and then, seizing upon a 
brilliant idea, he almost gave vent to a shout of 
triumph. 

" Of course ; easy as smoking ; we just get on to the 
road and wait for folks to come along it." 

" Brilliant!" Geoff scoffed at him. " People don't 
travel so often during the night in these parts, but at 
any rate it's the only solution of our difficulties. We'll 
get on to the road and see what happens." 

What actually happened was that, after a while, 
voices were heard in the neighbourhood of the prison; 
for by then Geoff and his friend had passed round the 
place, had found the road, and had sat down beside 
it. They heard the rattle of wheels somewhere on the 



326 On the Road to Bagdad 

road, and the ring of horses' hoofs. Creeping nearer, 
they heard those voices more distinctly, and after a 
little while, getting nearer still, Geoff was convinced 
that it was von Hildemaller himself who was talking. 

^^Go easy," he told Philip; ^'keep as far away as 
we can and listen to them. Von Hildemaller's in a 
nasty temper, I expect, and is quitting the prison. 
There! He's mounting into some sort of Turkish 
vehicle, and he's about to drive off. What's that he's 
saying? To Bagdad?" 

'^To Bagdad!" exclaimed Philip in an excited and 
eager whisper. ^' That's where we're going." 

'' I hope so, certainly," agreed Geoff. 

**Then why not accompany our dear friend Hilde- 
maller?" asked Philip, starting forward. 

"Accompany him!" exclaimed Geoff; *^you're 
fooling." 

"Never hung on the back of a trap before?" said 
Philip immediately. " I have. Come along ; let's get 
this German fellow to give us a lift to our destination." 

The young subaltern had never given expression to 
a more brilliant proposal. Geoff seized upon it on 
the instant, and the two, running swiftly across the 
road in their stockinged feet — for they still kept their 
boots tucked close to their bodies — were within a few 
feet of the rickety chaise in which the German was 
riding. As it drove off, clattering heavily over the 
rough road, they raced up behind it, and, unknown 
to the German, clung on behind and accompanied 
him towards Bagdad. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

News of Douglas Pasha 

** Bagdad! See it in the distance; watch the rising 
sun glint on the roofs and minarets!" 

It was in a cautious whisper that Geoff drew the 
attention of his chum to a point some long distance in 
advance of the spot over which the rickety chaise in 
which von Hildemaller was riding bore them. Very 
craftily he had thrust his head out beyond the side of 
the vehicle, and though all was still dusk about them, 
though the night had not altogether faded, yet, hap- 
pening to be on a considerable elevation, and looking 
down into the distant basin of the Tigris, he had 
caught just that faint gleam of the city for which they 
were making. Balancing unevenly, uncomfortably, 
and with many a suppressed groan, on the axle and 
spring of the other side, Phil shot his head out like 
a jack-in-the-box after Geoff had spoken, and stared 
ahead hard until he too saw flashes from the roofs of 
Bagdad. Then he gave vent to quite a loud "Jingo!" 
and instantly ducked his head low behind the back of 
the chaise, for von Hildemaller moved. Up to that 
moment, during weary hours, he had sat in his seat 
almost without movement, and undoubtedly had 
lapsed into sleep, for his snores, like his breathing, 



328 On the Road to Bagdad 

shook the air about him. Now he woke up with a 
start, stared about him in a frightened manner, and 
then called to the driver: 

''Stop! I heard something. Someone speaking, 
and close at hand." 

Obediently the driver pulled up his tired pony, and, 
looking back, stared sleepily at his master. 

*' A voice? Someone speaking? You heard some- 
thing, master?" he grumbled. ''No, no, surely; for 
we have been on the road alone, and not a soul has 
been near us — not a soul. You have been asleep, 
Master." 

And yet von Hildemaller, the ever-suspicious von 
Hildemaller, was not satisfied. He stood up stiffly 
and with difficulty, gripping the rail behind the 
driver's seat to steady himself, and causing the light 
chaise to rock on its springs. He stared to either 
side of him, trying to penetrate the dusk of early 
morning; he even peered over the back of the car- 
riage, whereat Geoff and Phil ducked even lower, 
while the former, gripping the axle with those strong 
fingers of his, made ready to reach up and grapple 
with the German. But the Teuton's eyes were still 
heavy with sleep, and, failing to see those two who 
had clung like limpets to his chaise throughout the 
night, he turned, setting the vehicle rocking again, 
and stared out before him. A guttural exclamation 
escaped from those broad lips of his: 

" Ach! but Bagdad at last. And there, some com- 
fort, some ease, after a terrible experience. But wait, 
wait! I have been thinking, I have been dreaming. 
Yes, he who strikes von Hildemaller strikes one who 
never forgets, never forgives; and who will repay, 



News of Douglas Pasha 329 

however long the interval, however long the debt 
may be owing." 

He sighed deeply, yawned till his jaws threatened 
to crack, and until he displayed a cavity even bigger 
than that which Geoff had compelled and into which 
Philip had thrust the gag with such delight. Then 
the German sank back into his seat again, and bade 
the driver, peremptorily, to drive onwards. Soon, 
too, heavy breathing just in front of them told the two 
young subalterns that von Hildemaller was sleeping 
again. 

'' Rather a near thing that, eh?" grinned Philip, 
his head now close to his chum's, and displaying just 
a little more common sense and caution. ''What 
would we have done if he had spotted us that time 
when he looked round?" 

It was Geoff's turn to smile, a meaning smile, while 
he stretched out one hand, balancing himself in that 
uncomfortable position which he had maintained 
throughout the night, and slowly doubled up the 
fingers of the other hand — fingers bursting with 
muscle and with tendons as strong and as elastic as 
steel — doubled them up slowly, in a manner which 
seemed to emphasize the power within them, whereat 
Philip sniffed and sniggered. In a moment, in fact, 
he realized how much Geoff had longed for another 
tussle with the German, how he would have almost 
welcomed discovery at that moment. 

''I know," he whispered. "I know what you'd 
have done, and the beggar deserves it. You'd have 
taken him by the neck, you'd have remembered 
Douglas Pasha, and you'd have squeezed the life out 
of his body." 



330 On the Road to Bagdad 

Of a sudden he gripped the powerful hand held out 
before him, gripped it and shook it with energy, 
while he stared hard at his chum. 

''Why not?" he asked. ''Good idea! Why not? 
Why not squeeze the life out of him now that we've 
got him, that is, almost squeeze it out of him. There's 
nothing to fear, we ain't surrounded by a prison, and 
we'd soon clear that driver off, or, for the matter of 
that, force him to do our bidding. Why not grab 
this brutal German and squeeze him till his eyes 
bulge out of his head, till he's choking, till he'll be 
glad to give away that secret of his, till he'll beg and 
beg and whine to us that he'll release Douglas Pasha? 
Why not?" 

He could feel Geoff s powerful hand suddenly com- 
pressed under his grip, could feel the fingers clench 
even tighter, while Geoff himself dropped from the 
axle to the road, as if the words had stung him to 
energy. It was what he had done, and Philip too, 
many a time throughout the night; on many an 
occasion, when meeting some long rise, they had been 
glad, in fact, to drop from the somewhat uncomfortable 
perches they had found, and to trudge along behind 
the carriage. Unbeknown to the German, unsus- 
pected by the driver, yet doubtless to the knowledge 
of the animal which dragged it, they had even helped 
to propel the carriage up some of the risings, acceler- 
ating its progress to such an extent that the sleepy 
driver was amazed at the powers displayed by the 
animal he drove, and at length was so struck by its 
prowess that he wakened sufficiently to think the 
matter over and to weigh its value. 

"Allah, but this is a strange thing!" he had said 



News of Douglas Pasha 331 

to himself more than once, at first very sleepily, and 
then with a little more spirit. *' Allah, but the 
beast is possessed! For see, ever before when we 
have made this journey and have come to these hills 
I have had to use the whip with vigour, even I have 
had to dismount and walk beside the carriage. It is 
wonderful ; for see how thin the beast is and old, and 
now he pulls like a giant, like a thoroughbred, like 
an Arab." 

It entirely defeated him ; the phenomenon was one 
he could not understand however much he puzzled; 
and puzzling and wondering made him even more 
sleepy. Thus the long hours of darkness had passed, 
if not comfortably for Geoff and his chum, yet cheer- 
fully enough. Above all, their thoughts were filled 
with the engrossing subject of their liberty. They 
felt like birds entrapped who had broken from a cage 
after weeks and weeks of imprisonment. They were 
filled with a feeling of wonderful exhilaration, while 
the knowledge that, though free, they were in the 
midst of an enemy country, with enemies all about 
them, added rather a zest to the whole business. 

And now Philip had made a proposition — a pro- 
position of such importance and so momentous in its 
results — if the plan were carried out, that Geoff had 
felt compelled to leap to his feet and run along behind 
the carriage. It was perhaps five minutes later when 
he plumped himself down on the axle again, trailing 
his stockinged feet along the dusty surface of the road, 
while he stared out into the rising dusk behind them. 

*^Eh?" asked Philip, returning eagerly to the sub- 
ject, knowing well from his experience of his chum that 
no decision was to be expected until sufficient time 



332 On the Road to Bagdad 

had elapsed for our hero to consider the proposition. 
Perhaps it was that Geoff was possessed of a certain 
sort of canny instinct, perhaps even it was those 
journeys with Douglas Pasha, those travels amongst 
Arabs and other peoples, which had taught him cau- 
tion, which had in a certain measure taught him to 
smother his thoughts, and to hide his feelings from 
other people. Inscrutable his face never was, nor 
ever would be, for it shone with healthy, youthful 
frankness; but the eyes were thoughtful eyes, eyes 
which told those who looked into them that the owner 
was possessed of some degree of caution, while, as 
we have said, Philip, his best and most intimate 
chum, knew that Geoff was one not to be hurried. 

'* Eh?" he asked again impulsively. '* You'd 
strangle the beast easily. I could with the fingers of 
one hand. Wait a moment. If we slip out here and 
hang on to these back springs we can pull up that 
old horse in a moment; then we tip the show over, 
and throw our German friend into the gutter. How's 
that? I'd love to see him roll." 

And so would Geoff, very much indeed, and yet 
what would be the object? 

** Let's just think the matter out, and chat it over 
quietly," he told the impulsive Phil, restraining him 
with a grip of his strong fingers. " Supposing we'd 
settled with the scoundrel — now I'd just love to." 

'* And I'd dote on it," Phil chimed in readily. 

** We both would," said Geoff soberly; *'and as to 
our being able to do so, pooh! there's no doubt about 
it. Single-handed I think we could easily handle 
both those beggars, so that we can put that question 
aside and take it for granted that we are easily the 



News of Douglas Pasha 333 

victors, but — and here comes the rub — supposing 
weVe cornered the driver, and have squeezed this 
German's neck till his eyes are bulging, and until, in 
fact, he's whining and begging for his life, and ready- 
to do anything for us — supposing we've got to that 
stage, eh?" 

**Yes, supposing we have," Phil grinned, for the 
very mention of squeezing von Hildemaller till his 
eyes bulged reminded him of that scene in the cell, 
when Geoff had gripped the German across the 
mouth, while Philip stood in front of him. Those 
cunning eyes had bulged with a vengeance then, had 
bulged horribly, had bulged in a manner which 
showed the Teuton's terror. Oh yes, it would be 
pleasant enough to witness such a thing again, know- 
ing well how much they owed to this treacherous 
German; but then — ** Let's suppose he's collared 
then," agreed Phil at length. *' Now then?" 

''Well, he's collared, he's shouting for mercy, he's 
perspiring and blowing worse than ever," said Geoff. 
''He's ready to take us right off to this prison, and 
ready to hand over his captive. But where are we? 
We have got the German and his driver, and we have 
got this carriage and the sorry animal that pulls it, 
but please remember we are still in what remains of 
our khaki. We are obviously aliens and enemies, the 
first passer-by would recognize us and give an alarm, 
a crowd would collect in no time, even far out in the 
desert, and long before we could get to the place 
where my guardian is imprisoned we should be cap- 
tured — possibly shot — at any rate foiled altogether." 

It was with difficulty that Phil suppressed a whistle 
— a whistle of astonishment, of amazement, and of 



334 On the Road to Bagdad 

pride in his comrade. He had always known Geoff 
to be a strangely long-headed, logical sort of fellow, 
but now, hearing him talk so quietly and on such an 
occasion, he could not help but admire him. 

** Spoken like a lawyer," he said at last, and quite 
seriously, ^'a fellow can see that there's nothing but 
solid reason behind what you're saying. We could, 
as you tell me, easily do for this German and make 
him howl — how I'd jolly well like to hear him — but 
Where's the advantage gained, as you say? Lost 
altogether by premature action. Only, if we don't 
take advantage of the fellow now that he is, as you 
may say, in our power, what are we to do? for it's 
getting lighter every minute, and in a little while any 
passers-by there may be — and people will be beginning 
to move once daylight comes — will stop us, and will 
give the very warning of which you have spoken." 

No doubt the problem was a knotty one, and one re- 
quiring a great deal of consideration. That Geoff and 
Philip could remain much longer on their unsteady 
and uncomfortable perches was out of the question, 
and yet, where were they to go? which way were they 
to turn? and, above all, where could they get re- 
freshment? The sight of a collection of palms to the 
right of the road, and almost abreast of them, seemed 
to decide Geoff of a sudden, for he turned to Phil on 
the instant. 

^* Let's drop off here," he said; ^* those palms up 
there may give us some sort of shelter, and possibly 
we may discover food also. Later on we'll go on into 
Bagdad, and there I shall be able to find at least one 
friend who will give us assistance." 

Dropping from the carriage at once, they stood in 



News of Douglas Pasha 335 

the centre of the road in a cloud of whirling dust, 
listening to the carriage as it rattled onward towards 
the city ; and, as the dust subsided and allowed them 
to see farther, they caught once more those gleams of 
light from the roofs of Bagdad — flashes which seemed 
to signal them onward. For the rest, the country- 
side all about them was still half-hidden in mist, above 
which the tops of that grove of palm-trees which had 
attracted Geoff's attention could be seen. Turning 
towards them without a word, they scrambled their 
way uphill, till presently they had left the hard 
gravelly surface over which they had been travelling 
and entered upon an area clad in green, over which 
grass and bushes grew profusely; and, after a little 
while, found themselves in a thick grove of trees, 
which, if they promised nothing else, promised shelter 
once the sun had risen. There, standing beneath the 
palms, they waited until the morning mist had been 
dispersed by the rays of the rising sun, and until they 
could see far and wide over that portion of Meso- 
potamia, and even as far as the city of Bagdad. 
Then they turned, and, striding on amongst the palms, 
were soon far within them, and in little danger of 
being discovered by travellers on the high road. 

**Hold on a moment," said Phil of a sudden; *^ I 
can smell something." He sniffed the air like a dog, 
turning in all directions. 

*'It's over here, behind us, deeper in the palms; 
there's a fire burning, I'm sure; and. Jingo! I'm 
positive there's meat cooking." 

The aroma came to their nostrils more strongly as 
the minutes passed, and attracted them like a magnet. 
Slowly and cautiously they crept between the palms, 



336 On the Road to Bagdad 

until they gained the edge of a clearing in the midst 
of which stood a somewhat curious dwelling. It was 
neither tent nor house nor cottage, but a combination 
of all three, a domicile constructed partly of mud 
walls, partly of palm -leaves, and here and there 
finished off, as it were, with stretches of camel-hair 
material. In front of it a wood fire smouldered, while 
a thin wisp of smoke rose above it and was blown 
into the trees. A rough, iron tripod stood over it, 
and from it depended an iron pot, in which, doubt- 
less, meat was stewing. The aroma made Philip's 
mouth water, and made Geoff quite irritable and im- 
patient. 

^' Looks like the habitation of some nomad shep- 
herd," he told Philip; ^'wonder who it can be, and 
how many there are in the family? In ordinary times 
I'd have gone straight up to the house and asked for 
food and shelter, but a fellow can't do that now, and 
it's more than likely that whoever owns the place 
carries arms with him always." 

They stood under the shade of those palm-trees for 
perhaps half an hour, watching the hut, watching the 
smouldering fire, and sniffing enviously at the steam 
which blew over towards them. If they had never 
known before what it was to be really hungry, they 
knew it well that bright morning when so close to 
food, so eagerly desirous of it, and so far, it seemed, 
from the likelihood of being able to secure it. It 
made them almost desperate at last, till they were 
ready to risk anything; but then, again, common 
sense — that fund of caution possessed by both of 
them — held them back, kept them out of sight, and 
restrained their impatience. A man came out of the 




"THE ARAB SET OFF ALONG A PATH WITHKX SOME TWENTY YARD.- 
OF OUR HEROES" 



News of Douglas Pasha 337 

hut at last — a tall, bronzed Arab, over whose shoulders 
was slung an ancient rifle, and in whose hand was 
borne a long stick which he used to support him- 
self whilst walking. Calling over his shoulder and 
whistling for a dog, which came bounding out of the 
hut, he set off along a path which led through the 
trees within some twenty yards of our heroes, so close, 
in fact, that it was a wonder that the dog did not dis- 
cover them; and when he- was gone, and they could 
no longer hear his steps, a woman emerged from the 
hut — an Arab like her lord and master. Throwing 
logs on the fire, and replenishing the contents of the 
iron pot with something she carried in a basket, she 
closed the door of the somewhat dilapidated house, 
and took the same path as the man. 

'^Better see where she goes," said Geoff. ** We'll 
slink through the trees and make quite sure that they 
are both out of sight. Shouldn't wonder if he's a 
simple shepherd, and has gone to visit his flock some- 
where about in this oasis; and it's more than likely 
that she has gone into Bagdad to buy things for the 
household. Sounds curious, doesn't it? But you've 
got to remember that people here are very much the 
same in many ways as people back in old England. 
Commodities of every kind don't grow in houses; they 
have to be bought. And stores and shops don't exist 
in the country, so Turkish and Arab women, like the 
folks at home, have to go off on shopping expedi- 
tions." 

Whatever it was that had taken the woman off, it 
proved, indeed, to be a godsend to these two wan- 
dering and hungry subalterns, for the woman dis- 
appeared finally down the road leading towards 

(C834) 22 



338 On the Road to Bagdad 

Bagdad, while careful investigation proved that the 
man had gone off to the left, where he could be seen 
trudging over the grass-covered land quite a mile dis- 
tant. As for the hut, it looked lonely enough when 
they went back, and uninhabited, though the fire still 
smouldered in front, and that delightful aroma still 
reached their nostrils. 

^^ Well, do we stop here in the shade of the trees, 
and just satisfy ourselves with a sniff of that stew 
cooking in the pot we're looking at?" exclaimed Philip 
in somewhat injured, if not impatient, tones, as he 
looked out into the sunlit arena in which the dilapi- 
dated hut was situated. *'Um!" he sighed; ^Mt's 
mutton, or — or — or perhaps goat." 

He snuffed at the air and projected his head beyond 
a leafy stem, his eyes attracted far more by the fire 
and the cooking-pot above it than by the hut, and his 
thoughts occupied with a possible chance of a meal 
rather than with the possibility of the hut harbouring 
further inhabitants. But the cautious Geoff, even 
then — his mouth watering at the appetizing odour of 
the cooking food, and his hunger made twofold by it 
— even then was not to be led into a position which 
might be harmful to them. Cautious by nature — as 
we have inferred already — possessed, that is to say, 
of a certain amount of discretion, which stood him and 
his subaltern chum in good stead on many an occa- 
sion, he was yet not altogether deficient in that dash 
and go which are so common in our subalterns, which, 
indeed, make all of them such a valuable asset to the 
British army. 

^*You hang on here," he told his chum. *' I'll 
skirmish round a little and see what's doing. Perhaps 



News of Douglas Pasha 339 

there's someone else in the hut, and if so we should 
look silly, shouldn't we, if we tackled the food and had 
a fellow firing into us with a blunderbuss when least 
expected?" 

Rapid strides took him along the edge of the palm- 
trees, the grass rustling at his feet as he trudged 
through it, and in a little while he was behind the hut, 
to find it rather less prepossessing in rear than it was 
in front, dilapidated, broken, and presenting many a 
ragged opening. Squinting through more than one 
of these, Geoff could see the interior quite plainly, for 
the sunlight was streaming in through the open door 
on the farther side. Then he boldly went round one 
end and entered, to find, as he had expected, that the 
place was entirely empty. Turning about, he and 
Philip met above the fire, their noses thrust over the 
cooking-pot, sniffing hungrily. 

''Jingo! Mutton, I'll swear!" 

''Goat'll taste just as good, just the same, no 
doubt," Geoff laughed heartily. '' Hook it off, Phil, 
while I go and look for some sort of plates," he cried, 
** and let's be slippy, or else the owners will be coming 
back to dispute our right to make use of their pro- 
perty." 

Hook it off Philip did, with a swish, and conveyed 
the steaming pot close to the door of the hut, into 
which Geoff had meanwhile plunged and luckily found 
a few articles of crockery. Not that the owners of the 
hut were possessed of a very elaborate suite of furni- 
ture, or a very complete equipment of other things 
usually found in houses in Europe and elsewhere; 
but the needs of your nomad shepherd in Asiatic 
Turkey are simple enough — humble enough if you 



340 On the Road to Bagdad 

will — and this man and his wife were no exceptions 
whatever. A couple of plates there were to be found, 
both scrupulously clean, so that in a matter of two 
minutes those two escaping subalterns might have 
been found, seated in the sunlight, careless of their 
surroundings, making use of their fingers as forks, 
and eating rapidly and heartily. 

*' Of course one's sorry to go and eat another fellow's 
dinner," grinned Philip in the midst of the meal, as 
though the thought had only just then struck him ; 
*'but, don't you know, dear boy, a fellow must eat, 
mustn't he?" 

*' Looks like it," grunted Geoff, helping himself a 
second time; *'and mighty good this stuff is too. 
Let's get finished with it." 

It took very little time indeed for these two hungry 
mortals to empty the steaming pot, whereat Geoff 
poured some water into it from an earthen vessel 
which stood outside the hut, and once more slung it 
over the fire. A deep draught from the same vessel 
refreshed them both wonderfully, when they were 
again able to look about them and take some interest 
in their immediate surroundings. 

*''Pon my word, I was so hungry that I couldn't 
bother about caution any longer," said Geoff, "but 
now that that's been put all right I'm going to get 
moving — to do all that is possible so that we shall 
not again be captured." 

*^ Hear, hear!" came from Philip. 

**Then you get off into the trees again and watch 
for that shepherd returning. I'm going to look round 
the hut to see if I can discover something which will 
help us. For look at the two of us ; we ain't exactly 



News of Douglas Pasha 341 

the sort of people who could march into Bagdad and 
escape notice now, are we?" asked Geoff, standing in 
front of Philip. 

** Speaking for yourself, I presume?" came the 
merry answer. ''Well, now, to be quite frank, you 
know, with you, and with every wish to avoid the 
suspicion of being personal, or rude, or what-not, 
don't you know, my dear Geoff, one couldn't describe 
your appearance as exactly attractive, hardly prepos- 
sessing; in fact, let's say, a trifle dishevelled, dis- 
tinctly ragged, and frightfully dirty." 

Philip wound up with a hearty roar of laughter 
which bent him double, and then stood up before his 
friend for examination, an examination which Geoff 
made with twinkling eyes and smiles which showed 
his amusement. 

" Dirty has it first with you," he told Philip. 
*' 'Pon my word, after that drive last night at the 
back of the chaise, in clouds of dust all the time, you 
look rather more like a dust-heap than anything else. 
My word, wasn't I thirsty! That draught of water 
was a perfect godsend. But, to go back to what I 
was saying, we ain't, either of us, exactly the sort of 
people who could walk into Bagdad in broad daylight 
and escape the attention of the people. Now, are we? 
Not likely! They'd spot us at once; these ragged 
remnants of khaki uniform would tell against us 
promptly." 

*' It's a facer," said Phil; ''we've either got to get 
a change of raiment or we shall have to sneak into 
Bagdad during the darkness." 

" When we would probably knock up against sen- 
tries at the gates and be promptly captured," said 



342 On the Road to Bagdad 

Geoff. **You go and keep a bright look-out whilst 
I rummage round this place." 

Humble though the occupants of that cottage may 
have been, and, indeed, undoubtedly were, the in- 
terior of the place was, like the crockery borrowed 
from it, kept scrupulously clean, and, wending his 
way from the main apartment into another, which did 
service as a sleeping-room, Geoff found it much the 
same — clean and tidy, with nothing distasteful about 
it. But, like the other contents of the place, which 
were few and far between, the store of clothing there 
was even scantier. 

^'Sort of shepherd's cloak and hat to match, with 
sandals for the feet," said Geoff, as he examined the 
articles hanging on a wooden peg. ^'They'd do for 
Philip; he'd look fine in 'em. What's this? Just the 
ordinary togs worn by a Turkish peasant — perhaps 
the very things our friend who owns the hut wears 
when he goes into Bagdad. Well, as Philip says, 
it's rather rough to deprive him of them ; but then, 
what else is there to do? And are we to put his feel- 
ings and his losses before our own safety?" 

Without more ado he brought the garments out 
of the house into the open, and whistled loudly to 
Philip. Then, for fear lest the owner of the place 
should return from a different direction and discover 
them, he crossed the open space, where the fire was 
still smouldering, and plunged into the trees beyond, 
where, later on, Philip, returning from the point he 
had reached, and from which he had been able to 
view the road beyond and the path taken by the 
shepherd, joined him. 

*'Put on those," Geoff told him, ^^and stick your 



News of Douglas Pasha 343 

boots into your belt. We'll sit down here and wait 
till the afternoon is passed, and then take the road for 
the city. Slip on the cloak and the hat over your 
ordinary clothes; I'll do the same with these things. 
They're scanty enough, so that we shan't be too 
warmly clad, and therefore there is no necessity to 
discard our own rags, and perhaps run the risk of 
having our tracks discovered by the shepherd or his 
dog coming across them." 

Taking the opportunity of their enforced stay in the 
grove of palm-trees, and of the shade which it afforded 
them, they slept alternately, thus making up for their 
lost rest during the preceding night; and it was while 
Geoff was on watch, and Philip lay full length and 
sleeping heavily, that our hero saw the shepherd re- 
turn by the same route that had taken him away and 
enter his cottage. Minutes passed, and though he 
came out and stretched himself in the sun, evidently 
awaiting his midday meal and the return of his wife, 
not once did he suspect that anyone had been there 
in the interval. Indeed, there was nothing to rouse 
his suspicions, for all was as he had left it, and the 
two subalterns had been careful enough to clean the 
plates they had used and return them to their re- 
spective positions. The dog, too, much to Geoff's 
delight, curled himself up at his master's feet, 
though at first he had sniffed round, and had shown 
some traces of curiosity, if not of momentary excite- 
ment. 

As for the woman, there was not a sign of her as 
yet, though when the day had dragged on a little, 
and the afternoon had nearly waned, Geoff saw her 
coming along the road from Bagdad, and watched 



344 On the Road to Bagdad 

her as she turned off towards the grove of trees and 
finally entered the sunlit arena in which the hut was 
situated. It was as good as a play then, though he 
felt rather sorry for it, to watch the woman's amaze- 
ment when she took the steaming pot from the fire, 
and, having brought two basins from the cottage and 
placed them upon a ledge just outside, poured some 
water into them from it. He watched as the dame 
dropped the pot and lifted her hands in amazement; 
and smiled grimly, too, as the man got languidly to 
his feet, not as yet understanding the situation, and 
then finally, when he realized that his midday meal 
was not forthcoming, clenched his fists and muttered, 
and showed his anger. Then bewilderment took pos- 
session of the two of them, and, having asked ques- 
tions the one of the other, they stared at the pot as 
it lay on the sandy ground as if it were a thing pos- 
sessed, and even edged away from it. 

''But it's a strange thing this thing that has hap- 
pened," the man muttered between his teeth. *'By 
Allah, no such thing have I known in the course of all 
my journeyings ! You say, wife, that you placed some 
flesh of a sheep within the pot?" 

'' Say it?" the woman replied in a shrill, angry, and 
rather frightened tone, glaring at her lord and master. 
"But, as Allah hears me, you yourself saw me add 
flesh to the pot ere you went, and after you had gone 
I added more. What then is this? Ah! A thief, 
eh?" 

That idea had not occurred to either of them before; 
but now it seized upon their imagination instantly, 
and roused them to a pitch of anger and excite- 
ment. 



News of Douglas Pasha 345 

** A thief! Yes, of course. Why did we not think 
of that before? Here, dog, find him.'* 

Geoff bent down and shook the sleeping Philip 
heartily. 

**Come along at once," he told him; *Met us slip 
out into the open and run for the road. It will be dusk 
almost by the time we reach it, and if that dog doesn't 
trace us we ought to be able to get clear away. I 
ought to explain that the man and his wife returned 
while you were asleep, and now, having decided that 
probably someone has been there at the cottage in 
their absence, they are sending the dog to search 
round." 

The yelps of the animal could be heard at that 
moment, as the two slid through the trees and out into 
the open. Then they took to their heels, and, following 
a hollow down which water no doubt poured in the 
rainy season, and which protected them from observa- 
tion, they gained the high road within a little while — 
that rough high road, covered inches thick in sandy 
dust, along which the ruffianly von Hildemaller had 
passed in the hours of darkness. 

^' We'll walk along steadily, taking notice of no 
one," said Geoff. ^' If we pass people, and they address 
us, leave it to me to answer, and I'll find some excuse 
for you. In any case, if I have to stop for a moment, 
you walk on, for there's nothing else that you can do, 
and to stop might prove dangerous." 

That evening, after dusk had fallen, and just before 
the gates of the city were closed, two rough shepherds 
from the desert passed into the city of Bagdad un- 
noticed, unchallenged, without raising the smallest 
suspicion. Passing along the main street which leads 



346 On the Road to Bagdad 

to the Bazaar, they turned off sharply into a narrow 
alley, which led them to an even narrower street, over 
which the rows of houses on either side met almost 
completely. 

*'And now?" whispered Philip. *< Where to? 
Here's Bagdad all right, and a fellow begins to feel a 
little more free. But what's our next move? Besides, 
there's a meal to be considered." 

'' And a bed," Geoff told him. '' This way. You'll 
find that we are not entirely without friends in this 
city. Follow straight up this street and turn off when 
I turn into another alley." 

Proceeding along that other dark and somewhat 
noisome alley, Geoff suddenly ran into an obstacle — 
an obstacle which rebounded and which proved to be 
a man, who was not less startled than himself. 

*' Pardon!" the man cried, and would have hurried 
on. 

"One moment; your name?" asked Geoff, using 
the Armenian tongue. '^Your name, my friend, for 
there is something in your voice that reminds me of 
one I have known." 

There was silence perhaps for a whole minute, while 
Philip slid up behind Geoff, ready to support him, 
and anticipating trouble. Then suddenly there came 
a glad cry of surprise from the individual who had 
cannoned into Geoff, and a hand gripped his arm 
firmly. 

"My master, you are Keith Pasha. Yes?" asked 
the voice — the voice was Esbul's. 

" I am," Geoff told him prompdy in tones of relief, 
for indeed this was a most happy meeting. 

"Then come, my master. I have a place of safety 



News of Douglas Pasha 347 

for you ; there is one who will greet you warmly and 
find food, and space, and raiment for you. Come, my 
master, for I also have something which will delight 
your heart. Listen, Master! I have news of Douglas 
Pasha." 



CHAPTER XIX 

Tracking the German 

**What luck! What splendid luck!" whispered 
Philip, as, the trio — himself, Geoff, and Esbul — 
stumbled along the dark archways and across the 
rough courtyards of the city of Bagdad on their way 
to those hospitable quarters which the Armenian had 
mentioned ; for Geoff had hurriedly told him who the 
man was against whom he had stumbled in the dark- 
ness, and had intimated to his chum that they were on 
their way to some haven. 

*^Spl — en — did!" emphasized Philip, muttering the 
word over and over again; **food, raiment, and a 
place in which to sleep safely. Well, it will be good 
to lie down and sleep soundly for one night, feeling 
that one isn't caged in like a bird, and isn't in imme- 
diate danger of arrest and further imprisonment." 

''And better still to know that there is something 
before us," Geoff answered him as they reached a low 
doorway leading out of the courtyard, "better, far 
better, Philip, to hear that Esbul has news of my 
guardian — news of Douglas Pasha — news so valuable 
that he won't impart it to me out here, but is waiting 
until we get into this house and under shelter." 

A sharp rap on the door was answered after a while 
by a gruff request to enter, and presently the three were 

348 



Tracking the German 349 

stumbling up the flight of steps down which Esbul had 
gone when he left Benshi the Jew — that mysterious, 
silent, and thoughtful friend of Douglas Pasha. In a 
trice it seemed they were in the room he occupied, to 
find the Jew seated on a divan, his eyes fixed on the 
opposite wall, the same listless unfathomable expres- 
sion about his haggard face. And yet that face could 
show animation when he wished, could show friend- 
ship and welcome. 

*'Be seated," he told the two subalterns. **Be 
seated, Keith Pasha, ward of that one who has been 
my friend for many years, of Douglas Pasha. So, 
Esbul, it came about that in passing on your way from 
the house where you were watching you hit upon these 
two, hit upon them by mere chance, by pure accident!" 

"But how — how did you learn that then?" asked 
Geoff impulsively; for it was but a few minutes ago 
only that that unexpected meeting had taken place, and 
how could the Jew have gained tidings of it? Had 
he guessed it? Had he merely divined it because of 
their coming together? Or had this mysterious man 
obtained news of the event in the same mysterious 
manner in which other and more valuable information 
came to him? 

*' Be seated, my master," Benshi said, ignoring the 
question for the moment. " Let Esbul place food 
before you; and to-morrow he will lead you to that 
place where Douglas Pasha is imprisoned. Is it not 
so, Esbul? You who have watched over the German, 
were you not on your way hither to give me tidings 
of this von Hildemaller and of his movements on the 
morrow?" 

A glance at the young Armenian proved indeed 



350 On the Road to Bagdad 

that that must be the case, though how Benshi had 
learned of that also was beyond him. Amazement 
was written on every feature; he gasped with aston- 
ishment, and then smiled at our hero. 

'* It is even so," he told him. *' Men come and go, 
but Benshi sits here or in the Bazaar, seeing nothing 
it would seem, hearing no news, merely existing the 
day through, and yet — and yet, news reaches him." 

*'Aye! Reaches me, my friend, in a manner that 
I will not explain ; news sometimes small and petty, 
sometimes of great doings, of great events. Listen 
now, whilst Esbul brings food before you. My 
master, you desire news of your friends, of your 
expedition which has come to Mesopotamia, which 
fought its way to Basra and Kurnah, and from thence 
advanced up the Tigris to Amara? You desire tidings 
of those friends whom you accompanied to Nasiriyeh, 
and of those others who struck to the north-east and 
seized Ahwaz? Then, I will tell you. 

*' Amara fell to them as easily as a ripe orange falls 
to the hands of the plucker. Then came an advance 
up the river to Kut-el-Amara, while Turks waited the 
coming of the British and the Indians in full force, 
in positions prepared most carefully for them under 
the leading of Germans — men of the same cunning 
and skill as this von Hildemaller. Yet they were 
defeated." 

^^ Defeated!" exclaimed Geoff; **you mean that the 
Expeditionary Force has captured Kut, really?" 

'*They stormed those positions; they outflanked 
the Turks," the Jew told him, his listless eyes wander- 
ing for one moment from the wall opposite to our 
hero's face and to Philip's, and then back to the old 



Tracking the German 351 

position. **They captured the town of Kut-el-Amara 
and pursued the fleeing Turks. And then, my masters, 
they followed " 

"Followed towards Bagdad?" asked Geoff, rising 
to his feet in his eagerness. " Followed in this direc- 
tion? Then they are near already?" 

Benshi waved him back to his seat with a listless 
movement of one hand, and went on with his story. 

"Nay," he said, and sighed as if he were sorry 
that it was not so. "Nay, my master, the force of 
which we are speaking advanced in small numbers 
up the River Tigris towards Bagdad, till indeed but 
within a few leagues of it, till they reached the old 
tomb of the Caliph at Ctesiphon, where once more 
the Turks were awaiting them in prepared positions, 
where, indeed, they had amassed large numbers of 
soldiers — so much so that they outnumbered the 
British by at least three to one. There was a battle 
then in which the Turks suffered heavily and the 
British also, a battle which disclosed to your friends 
the strength of the enemy before them, and which 
made a retirement imperative. That was days ago — 
days ago; and now they are back, those British and 
Indian soldiers, back in Kut-el-Amara, having carried 
out an orderly and skilful retreat. Back in Kut, where 
my information tells me that they are surrounded." 

He left Philip and Geoff with their mouths wide 
open with amazement at what they heard, their faces 
showing first delight at the prowess of their comrades, 
and then disappointment at their enforced retreat, and 
a greater disappointment that they too were not beside 
them to take their share in the fighting. 

Yet Benshi did not tell all there was to be told 



352 On the Road to Bagdad 

about Asiatic Turkey, all that had to do with the 
British and other forces. We have intimated already 
in the course of this narrative how a force employed 
in one quarter of the world, if sufficiently powerful, 
may well affect the fortunes of other troops engaged 
in a different area altogether. We told of how the 
coming of Turkey into this world-conflict in partner- 
ship with Germany and Austria affected the fortunes 
of Russia on her European front, because of the need 
to hold her Caucasian frontier, and there is no need 
to enter into details of the fighting which took place 
in those mountains, almost in perpetual snow, where 
Turks and Russians faced one another. It will suffice 
if we say that, well-armed, well-equipped, and officered 
by Germans in numerous instances, the army corps 
which Turkey sent to the Caucasus at the commence- 
ment of hostilities, that is to say, during the first 
winter of this widespread warfare, suffered many a 
reverse at the hands of the Tsar's gallant soldiers. 
They failed to advance, failed to invade southern 
Russia, and indeed had their work cut out to prevent 
the Muscovite armies from invading Asiatic Turkey, 
and from pouring down into the land south of the 
Caucasus range — land itself some six thousand or 
more feet in elevation. 

Indeed, the country south-west of the Caucasus 
range is broken up by innumerable ranges of hills 
and mountains, and presents large numbers of up- 
land plateaus. It is the country in which the un- 
fortunate race of Armenians were fostered, where 
they have dwelt for centuries, and on one of those 
upland plateaus, perched in a situation of natural 
strength, and defended by forts and gun emplace- 



Tracking the German 353 

ments, cunningly designed by German engineers, 
lies the city and fortress of Erzerum, the main base 
of those Turkish armies operating against the Rus- 
sians — a fortress deemed impregnable, and one upon 
which the Turks and their German masters had 
placed the utmost importance. As that British force 
was fighting its way back to Kut-el-Amara, and was 
besieged in that little township on the River Tigris, 
the Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia, he who had led 
the Tsar's armies into Galicia a year previously, was 
mustering his forces and preparing his arrangements 
for a dash into Armenia — a dash made in the height 
of winter, through snow-drifts ten or more feet in 
depth, and in an atmosphere well below freezing. 
Such was the impetus of that dash, so good and 
careful were the preparations for it, and so great the 
courage and the elan of the armies of the Caucasus 
that, in spite of Turkish resistance, in spite of bat- 
teries cunningly placed, in spite of every obstacle, 
human and natural, the Russians poured down upon 
the fortress of Erzerum, and to the amazement of all 
—of the Turks and of the Germans, not less than of 
the others, captured it, its guns, and a goodly part 
of its garrison. Then, flooding over this upland 
plateau, carving their way westward and south-east, 
they rapidly forced their way in the direction of 
Trebizond — that port on the Black Sea by which 
Turkey had reinforced and revictualled her Caucasian 
army. To the south-east, Russian troops, in smaller 
numbers, pushed along the frontier of Persia, striking 
towards Mesopotamia, until patrols of horse and com- 
panies of foot were within measurable distance of 
Bagdad. Yet they were not near enough to seize the 

(G834) 23 



354 On the Road to Bagdad 

city, not in sufficient force at present to advance 
across the desert, not able, in fact, to lend assistance to 
the British force beleaguered in Kut-el-Amara, and to 
that other force, since organized, and sent up the River 
Tigris to relieve it — a force of British and Indians 
again, which, willing enough and eager to relieve 
their comrades, had, for weary weeks now, been held 
up by rains and floods in the country. 

A narrative of the incidents of the Mesopotamian 
operations may be truthfully said to be one of brilliant 
actions, of most gallant fighting on the part of our 
soldiers, and of a display of soldierly virtues which 
equalled, if it did not surpass, those fine qualities 
shown by British troops in days gone by. This 
desert warfare was so different from that which had 
now fallen upon the armies battling in Flanders 
against the Germans. There, in the absence of forts 
constructed of masonry as formerly, there was never- 
theless a species of fort running from Switzerland 
north to Verdun, and running in a north-westerly 
direction to the Belgian coast. A fort consisting of 
muddy trenches, delved deep in the soil, sheltering 
hosts of soldiers, and strengthened and supported in 
thousands of places by earthworks, by machine-gun 
redoubts, and supported in rear by an array of guns 
on either side, the number of which' had never been 
seen before, had never even been . nearly equalled in 
any warfare. But the desert of Mesopotamia gave 
opportunity for other fighting. Troops, both British 
and Turkish, were not sufficiently numerous to man a 
line running right across the country, and thus there 
was an opportunity to manoeuvre, the chance of out- 
flanking an enemy, and every now and again an open- 



Tracking the German 355 

ing for a charge, often enough brilHantly executed, 
by the British. 

Yet the main line of advance must, because of 
that desert, of that arid country, follow the winding 
channel of the Tigris River, on which the troops 
were dependent for their water-supply. And that 
river itself was bounded in numerous places by marsh 
land, which often enough obstructed the march of 
troops, and which, in the neighbourhood of Kut, pro- 
duced positions similar, on a very small scale — to 
those in Flanders and in France; that is to say, just 
as the sea bounds that line to the north in France, so 
marsh land in the neighbourhood of the Tigris River 
obstructed the advance of the British force marching 
to the relief of the beleaguered garrison at Kut-el- 
Amara. They could not easily get round those 
marshes, for the need of water held them to the river, 
and advancing along its banks they came upon a part 
where those marshes, coming close together, left but 
comparatively narrow space through which they could 
make progress, a space deeply trenched by the Turks, 
and fortified in similar manner to those trenches in 
France, held by a numerous and well-armed enemy, 
flanked by redoubts, and supported by machine- 
guns and artillery. A position, indeed, of formidable 
strength, more particularly as to outflank it was im- 
possible, and a frontal attack must be undertaken. 
Add to these difficulties atrocious weather — rains which 
poured upon the British force, which drenched the 
men to the skin, bitterly cold rains, which, stopping 
at last, left the troops stewing in a watery atmosphere 
under a blazing sun, wading knee-deep in a muddy 
marsh which covered the country. 



356 On the Road to Bagdad 

Having thus outlined to some small degree the 
enormous difficulties of the Mesopotamian force and 
its gallant conduct so far, we can now return to Geoff 
and Philip, and ascertain their fortunes after that 
momentous meeting with Esbul, the Armenian. 

In the feeble rays cast by the guttering candle sus- 
pended above the old Jew's head there stood, on that 
memorable evening when Geoff and his chum reached 
the city of Bagdad, no more eager individuals, none 
more intensely interested in the tale of the prowess of 
the British forces, than they. 

"And so our men have been quite close to this city, 
have fought their way nearly to Bagdad?" said Geoff, 
his face glowing with enthusiasm. 

''That is so, Excellency," Benshi admitted, his lips 
hardly moving, his withered frame bent as he squatted, 
his eyes still wandering over the opposite wall as if 
seeking for something there; "a gallant force indeed, 
who struck boldly, and who struck heavily, against 
the troops of the Sultan. If their own losses were 
heavy, those of the Turks were treble perhaps ; while 
the fact that they were forced to retire is not to be 
wondered at, does not take from them honour or 
credit; for those troops, handled by German officers, 
were three, even four, to one of your people, while the 
need for water, the lack of it, in fact, made a retreat — 
seeing that Bagdad could not be reached — a matter 
of urgency. But now, Excellency, you have heard of 
your people. They are back in Kut-el-Amara this 
many a day, besieged there, surrounded, they tell me, 
holding the enemy at bay, yet too weak to cut a road 
through them. Maybe you will join them there, 
maybe no; and meanwhile you are in this city, in 



Tracking the German 357 

Bagdad, wherein not so long ago I had speech with 
Douglas Pasha. Listen, then, to the tale Esbul has 
to tell us. Speak on!" he commanded, turning to the 
Armenian. 

At once all eyes were cast upon the youthful figure 
of Esbul, now squatting on the floor, his face almost 
as impassive, almost as inscrutable, as that of Benshi, 
yet his fingers working, his lips compressed, and 
sometimes twitching — indications of the excitement 
under which he was labouring. 

''Then hear, Master," he began, "hear my tale. 
This von Hildemaller, this huge German with the 
pleasant countenance " 

"Ah!" 

Benshi gave vent to a grunt, a grunt which might 
have expressed disgust, appreciation, pleasure, any- 
thing, in fact, for his features did not relax, they dis- 
played no sign of his feelings. 

"With the pleasant countenance, my master; he 
who has deceived so many of us, who carries on the 
surface smiles which fascinate, which hide the crafty, 
cunning, cruel mind behind it. Early in the morning 
he came to this city, passing by silent ways to his 
quarters, endeavouring to evade notice. Yet Benshi 
saw him, while I have since been to those quarters, 
have clambered about them, have listened, and now 
know something of his movements." 

"Ah!" it was Geoff's turn to give vent to a grunt 
of anticipation. "His movements! Yes," he said 
eagerly, "they are?" 

" Indefinite!" Esbul replied. "Indefinite at present, 
my master; but so definite, so promising, that it may 
well be that you will think fit to take note of them. 



358 On the Road to Bagdad 

He is preparing for a journey outside the city. To- 
morrow, as the dusk comes, a conveyance will await 
him on the road beyond the gates west of Bagdad, 
and men also — but three of them — I gathered." 

'' Hold! Three men you said," Philip blurted out. 
** Turks, Armenians, or what? All cut-throats, I 
guess, in any case." 

For a moment Esbul looked puzzled, for though he 
could speak English with some fluency the term ''cut- 
throats " was a little foreign to him. But Geoff hur- 
riedly explained, whereat the Armenian nodded his 
head emphatically. 

''Murderers, yes!" he said. "One of them the. 
same who drove him into this city, the one who was 
to have carried out the murder of Douglas Pasha." 

"And they assemble, where?" asked Geoff, while 
the two subalterns exchanged swift glances, as though 
indeed the same thought had occurred to both of them. 

"As I have said, my master, they assemble with 
this carriage outside the western gate of the city, 
where the German joins them as dusk is falling." 

"And then?" asked Geoff. 

"And then, who knows, my master?" said Esbul. 
"Those who follow the German and his escort may 
learn, for though I have striven to gather news of 
their destination I have failed completely. But this 
I know, it has to do with Douglas Pasha." 

As a matter of fact, the crafty Esbul had been even 
more successful than he had anticipated, than he could 
have hoped, considering the difficulties of the situa- 
tion. Having clambered over the walls of the com- 
pound which surrounded the quarters in which the 
German usually lived, and to which he had returned 



Tracking the German 359 

after that visit to the prison in which Geoff and Philip 
had been incarcerated, Esbul, as we have learned 
already, had found not a light, not an illuminated 
chink, not a sound, nothing to guide him as to whether 
von Hildemaller were there or not, or whether he had 
merely come back to go out again promptly. Yet 
Esbul was a knowing fellow, and gifted with an 
abundance of patience. Passing round the house, he 
reached a point where a wall enclosed a small yard 
within it, and, clambering on this, was able to reach 
the roof — a flat affair, on which the owner could rest 
and sleep, if need be, in the hot weather. Still, there 
was no sign of the German, not a sound to betray his 
presence. Esbul crept about the place, peeped over 
the parapet, laid his ear on the roof, and yet was 
baffled. Then, by a lucky chance, he went to the 
only chimney of which the place boasted, and, peering 
down it, saw a light far below, and heard voices. 
More than that, he found soon enough, or rather 
guessed, that this chimney was merely a ventilator 
for some chamber in which people were talking, in 
which von Hildemaller, without doubt, was seated. 
More startling still was the discovery that sounds 
were accentuated by the chimney, were gathered to- 
gether as it were, and were delivered to his ear louder, 
perhaps, than when uttered by those far below him. 
In that way, then, by a mere stroke of luck, by a for- 
tunate chance, more fortunate perhaps than his acci- 
dental meeting with Geoff and Philip that night, the 
Armenian had unearthed the secrets of the German. 

There was silence in the tiny room beneath the 
guttering candle for some few minutes, while two 
busy brains were hard at work piecing up the infor- 



36o On the Road to Bagdad 

mation given them, concocting plans, and seeking 
for measures to outwit von Hildemaller. Two busy- 
brains, we have said, though no doubt Esbul's wits 
were sharpened. As for Benshi, he still sat on his 
divan, his eyes wandering over the opposite wall, his 
face — long, thin, ascetic, and angular — with not an 
expression on it. He might have been a wooden 
figure for all they knew, a silent, thoughtless figure. 
And yet the old man had already given indications of 
possessing unusual wisdom and acumen — of possess- 
ing, indeed, uncanny powers of looking into the 
future. It was he, in fact, who first broke that silence, 
and who, in the most amazing manner, seemed to 
have divined the very thoughts of Geoff and Philip. 

He actually gave vent to a feeble chuckle, looked 
up suddenly at the spluttering candle, and then across 
at the two disguised subalterns. Indeed, he treated 
them to quite a long inspection — something strangely- 
rare in the case of the Jew — an inspection which took 
in every feature, their dusty, dishevelled appearance, 
their borrowed clothes, and the transformation they 
had made with them. 

*' It is well, it is well, my masters!" he said at last, 
and his voice was positively cheerful. *' It is well, 
this scheme of yours, this plan that you have been 
formulating. Listen, Esbul ! To-morrow evening, as 
the dusk falls, a conveyance will be waiting outside 
the western gate of this city for the German known as 
von Hildemaller. This German hound will stride 
through the streets of the city, will push his way past 
the sentries, will browbeat any who may dare to stand 
before him, and will plump himself in this convey- 
ance. Then he will be driven off, driven to a destina- 



Tracking the German 361 

tion which I do not know, which I have sought for 
months past, driven, you tell us — and I can easily be- 
lieve it — to the prison which holds my old friend 
Douglas Pasha. And then, my masters, let us take 
closer heed of the three who accompany this ruffian — 
of the one who drives the conveyance, and of those 
other two who, mounted on animals, ride beside it. 
Let me whisper a secret to you, a secret undreamt by 
the German, unsuspected by him, a secret which must 
be kept relentlessly from this German. That man 
who drives the vehicle is not the rascal ready to cut a 
throat for but a small reward, eager to slay even his 
best friend so that he may claim the gold of the Ger- 
man; no, my masters, it is Esbul, this Armenian 
youth who owes almost as much to Douglas Pasha as 
I do." 

Geoff glanced swiftly across at the Armenian, and 
noticed, with something akin to amazement, that 
Esbul showed no sign of astonishment at the words 
he had heard, seemed, indeed, to have known the 
part he was to take even before Benshi had spoken, 
seemed to know it, in fact, just as well as he, Geoff, 
knew it, and doubtless as well as Philip also. The 
thing was positively uncanny, yet so simple, so calmly 
put before him, that he could hardly wonder — though 
when he pondered later it made him exclaim, as he 
realized how successful the Jew had been at divining 
his own thoughts and feelings. 

" It is so, Benshi. I shall be on that conveyance," 
said Esbul, when a few moments had passed; *'and 
beside me will be those two mounted men escorting 
the German." 

''And they, Esbul, can you guess who they will 



362 On the Road to Bagdad 

be?" asked Philip, Geoff in the meanwhile having 
hurriedly interpreted Benshi's words to him. 

'* I can, my master. The one will be Keith Pasha, 
the other yourself. The thing must be done swiftly 
and quietly, done now, for here is an opportunity to 
outwit the German, the only opportunity, perhaps, 
which will come our way." 

That such a plan might easily undermine any which 
the German had made, and outwit him and utterly fog 
him, seemed possible enough, though there were other 
matters to be considered. Supposing Geoff and his' 
friends were able to take the place of those three men, 
as seemed already to have been decided, there would 
be the journey with the German in their company to 
some destination unknown ; then what then? Would 
there follow a meeting with Douglas Pasha? Or could 
it be that Esbul had been mistaken, and von Hilde- 
maller about to journey on some other business alto- 
gether? Yet it was a chance worth taking, an oppor- 
tunity in a thousand, one which demanded instant 
action. 

Long into the night they sat in that room, with 
Benshi motionless before them, interjecting a word 
now and again, giving them advice, foretelling move- 
ments in the most uncanny and inscrutable manner. 
Then, wearied with their discussion, tired out after 
their long journey, Geoff and his friend lay down to 
sleep, and doubtless the Jew and Esbul retired also, 
though the two young subalterns were ignorant of the 
fact, for hardly had their heads touched the flooring 
when they were fast asleep and snoring. 

The following day, however, found them alert and 
brisk and eager to be moving. Having eaten their 



Tracking the German 363 

full, and donned the clothing which Esbul brought for 
them — for a visit to the Bazaar had easily procured 
suitable raiment — the three young men passed out 
into the open street and wandered slowly in the direc- 
tion of the house occupied by von Hildemaller. 
Stationing themselves at different points of vantage, 
they waited with what patience they could summon, 
and watched carefully for signs of the German and his 
followers. And when some hours had passed, and 
their patience was almost exhausted — when, indeed, 
in the case of Philip, that excellent young fellow was 
positively stamping with vexation — Geoff sent along 
a whistle — the signal agreed upon — and was observed 
a moment later to be following three men, who had 
appeared, it seemed, from nowhere, in the street, and 
were wending their way along it. In the wake of 
Geoff came another figure, slimmer than he — the 
figure of Esbul, dressed as a Bazaar porter, carrying 
a box on his head, slowly making his way over the 
cobbles, and behind him Philip fell in promptly, look- 
ing just as much a ruffian as Esbul, and as if he were 
following with a view of assisting him with his burden. 
In that order, showing no haste, keeping a consider- 
able distance between themselves and the men who 
had issued from the German's house, Geoff and his 
comrade made their way through the heart of Bagdad, 
down cobbled, ragged streets, through narrow alleys, 
across courtyards littered with garbage, and so on till 
they approached the outskirts of the city, those walls 
which had been erected to keep out the barbarians. 

It was at that point that the three men in advance 
halted and looked craftily about them ; then they 
suddenly dived through an open archway and dis- 



364 On the Road to Bagdad 

appeared from view, leaving Geoff and his friends a 
little staggered. 

^'Come along," he cried, for Esbul and Philip had 
by now drawn quite close to him. ''After them as 
quick as you can, or we may lose them. Keep close 
together, and carry the matter through as we pro- 
mised." 

Dashing along the street, they reached the archway 
within a few seconds, and, diving into the stone pas- 
sage to which it gave access, raced through it and 
across a courtyard even dirtier than any they had 
passed before. There was not a soul in sight, not 
a voice to be heard, and it looked at first as if they 
had missed the men they were following. Then Geoff 
pointed to a doorway, held his hand up for silence for 
just half a minute, and later, without a word, turned 
and threw himself at the aperture. 



CHAPTER XX 

Success at Last 

Dusk was falling over the city of Bagdad, that 
ancient city situated astride the River Tigris, which, 
if it could tell tales at all, could tell of ancient peoples, 
of past history of surpassing interest, of deeds and 
doings which would enthral all people. How many 
thousands of times must dusk have settled upon this 
ancient spot, and clad the gilded roofs of minarets 
and towers just as it was doing on this evening. 
How often, too, must figures precisely similar to 
those which now wended their way through its narrow 
and tortuous streets have passed over, perhaps, even 
the very same cobbles, hundreds of years before; 
maybe there was no difference even in their dress, 
in the raiment of those people of former days and 
in that donned now by the inhabitants of the city. 
Certainly no three less conspicuous people ever passed 
down the main street which runs towards the Western 
Gate than those three who emerged from the narrow 
courtyard into which Geoff and his comrades had 
dashed. One was mounted on the driving-seat of 
that same rickety chaise which had conveyed the 
cunning von Hildemaller to the city; while two 
others, ill-kempt yet well-set-up fellows, were astride 
stout Turkish ponies. 

365 



366 On the Road to Bagdad 

'^ Who goes?" the sentry at the gates challenged. 

^'A party, towards the west, in the service of one 
who is a friend of the Governor. 

''One who is a friend of the Governor. Ho, ho!" 
the sergeant of the guard answered flippantly, as if 
he doubted the words. " Halt, there! Declare your- 
selves! Who is the high and mighty individual 
who is a friend of the one who commands our ser- 
vices?" 

He stepped rapidly forward, while one of his men, 
at a signal from him, leapt into the centre of the road 
where it passed through the gates and barred the 
way with his bayonet. 

''How now! By Allah; this is a strange saying 
that you have given us, ' a friend of the Governor?' 
One who walks in high places and yet employs such 
scarecrows? Who are you?" 

The sergeant halted beside the driver of the 
carriage, and at the same time seized the reins of 
one of the ponies ; then the driver of the rickety chaise 
bent over towards him, looked suspiciously at the 
sentry, and, bending lower, .v^hispered in the ser- 
geant's ear. 

" Fool!" he said; "do you wish to harm even your 
own Governor? Must you then make a scene at the 
very gates of the city and so disclose his purposes? 
Listen a moment. Doubtless you have been on guard 
at this gate on many an occasion, and doubtless, too, 
you know of men of whom it may be said with justice 
that they walk in high places — even in the palace of 
the Governor. Then, if that is so, you will know of 
von Hildemaller." 

Instantly the Turkish sergeant looked up at the 



Success at Last 367 

driver with a startled, if not frightened, expression 
on his face. 

" That man!" he exclaimed, *' but surely " 



a 



S — s — h, no ' buts ','' the driver of the chaise mur- 
mured in warning tones. '' Pass us out without 
further ado, for it would be ill for you if I were to 
report to my master that I was delayed here at the 
gate, and that the Governor's purpose was defeated." 

*' Stand aside there! Pass without. Go on your 
way, friends, and may Allah bless you!" 

In a moment the sergeant's purpose had been 
entirely altered, the mention of the Turkish governor, 
and of von Hildemaller's name, having acted like 
magic, and at once the driver, who had cautioned 
the man in stage whispers, so mysteriously in fact, 
sat upright, gripped his reins again, and whipped 
up his sorry pony; while those two who straddled 
their ponies beside him dug their heels into their 
mounts, the three clattering over the cobbles between 
the gates, and passing out into the gathering dark- 
ness. A quarter of an hour later they pulled up about 
half a mile beyond the gates and waited for their 
passenger. 

*'Phew!" exclaimed one of the trio, sliding from 
the rather uncomfortable saddle of the animal he was 
riding; ''that was a near one as we were coming 
through the gates. Of course I couldn't understand 
a word of what was being said, but that sergeant 
fellow looked nasty. And, Geoff, what a scrimmage!" 

''Scrimmage? Oh!" 

"Yes, of course. In that yard and in that stable. 
Glad you downed that fellow who, Esbul tells us, 
was the leading ruffian hired by von Hildemaller." 



368 On the Road to Bagdad 

Geoff dropped from his pony at that precise mo- 
ment, slung the reins over his arm, and entered into 
conversation with his companions. He felt very gay- 
hearted and unusually cheerful, and, moreover, he 
had enjoyed every bit of that scrimmage to which 
Philip had referred, and even the scene at the gate, 
which at one moment had looked so threatening. 

Let us explain that the coming of dusk had pro- 
vided another adventure for our hero and his friends, 
an adventure filled with strenuous movement — an 
encounter, in fact, where the numbers were equally 
divided, and where victory, therefore, was all the 
more pleasing. Dashing in through that aperture 
which led from the yard into which they had traced 
those three in the pay of von Hildemaller, Geoff had 
found himself in a big tumble-down stable, in one 
corner of which a chaise stood, while three animals 
were haltered near it. The three men, who, unsus- 
picious of the fact that they were followed, had entered 
the place but a few minutes before, were at that very 
moment about to throw off the halters from these 
animals and prepare them for a journey. Then, 
hearing footsteps at the door, and seeing figures 
enter it, they turned, and, realizing at once that the 
intruders were likely to prove unfriendly, they dashed 
towards them, one of the men drawing a knife, while 
the taller ruffian — he who was von Hildemaller's right- 
hand man — snatched a revolver from his belt. It 
was at that precise moment that Geoff dealt the blow 
which had delighted Philip. Lunging forward, he 
struck the man with his clenched fist, knocking him 
backwards till the fellow's head came violently against 
a beam which supported the roof timbers. Nor was 



Success at Last 369 

Philip behindhand in helping his comrades and in 
joining in the attack. He had no time in which to 
select his man or to make special preparations; but, 
leaning forward, he threw himself upon one of them, 
gripped him in his arms, and wrestled with him. As 
for Esbul, he was just in time to ward off a stroke 
launched at his heart by the man who had drawn 
the knife ; quick as thought, he gripped the wrist and 
arrested the blow, and, with equal swiftness, clasped 
his other hand over the fist which gripped the weapon, 
and suddenly jerked the man's arm backward. Bump! 
The elbow struck the wall behind with a nasty jar, 
and forced the fellow's grip to loosen. What followed 
was done in a flash, was done with such swiftness 
that Geoff failed to observe what had happened, for 
Esbul had the knife in his own hand in a moment 
and had plunged it to the hilt in the body of the 
ruffian. 

*'Now, let's tie this other fellow up," Geoff had 
said, seeing that Philip had firm hold of the man he 
had tackled; *'slip one of the ropes off this halter, 
and let's secure him to one of the mangers." 

Wiping the blade of the knife he had secured upon 
the clothing of his victim, Esbul calmly stepped across 
the stable to where the animals were standing, and 
returned within two minutes with a length of rope 
which was amply sufficient for their purpose. Indeed, 
within five minutes, the third of the German's hirelings 
was bound hand and foot and tied securely to one of 
the mangers. Then Geoff bent over the man he had 
struck, and who, meanwhile, had made no move- 
ment. 

^'Dead, Master," Esbul told him, kneeling upon 

(0 834) 24 



370 On the Road to Bagdad 

the floor. ''The blow you struck was a strong one, 
and his head, coming with such violence against the 
wooden beam, was cracked. No longer will he do 
the bidding of von Hildemaller." 

The end of those three whom the two subalterns 
and the Armenian had tracked so silently and so 
skilfully had indeed been as tragic as it was sudden, 
and the first part of the scheme to outwit the German 
had ended most successfully. No time was lost after 
that, and the animals were hurriedly harnessed and 
saddled and taken out into the yard. 

''You'll drive the chaise," Geoff told Esbul, a note 
of authority in his voice; "and you'll just keep your 
mouth shut, Philip." 

" Right oh!" came from that hopeful. 

"Then march! We can leave this fellow who's 
tied up to the manger without much fear of his 
creating an alarm. Even if he shouts, I doubt if any- 
one will hear him ; but no doubt he will have his own 
reasons for keeping quiet, and for trusting for release 
to some chance comer." 

Then they had moved away from the yard, had 
passed down one of those narrow winding streets 
which intersect the city, and had finally gained the 
main street which led to the western gate. 

"And now, all we want is our dear friend von 
Hildemaller," declared Philip. " He was to come at 
dusk, Esbul — that's what you said; you're sure?" 

"Certain, Master. If you have any doubts, but 
think for a moment. The tale I told was that three 
hirelings were to await the German outside the western 
gate of the city, one driving a rickety chaise and two 
mounted. Then consider for an instant: we who 



Success at Last 371 

went out to track these men, who watched outside 
von Hildemaller's quarters, saw three men emerge, 
followed three men, tracked them to the west of this 
city, tracked them, indeed, into a stable where a 
chaise was waiting and three horses. Is not that, then, 
proof sufficient of the truth of the tale I have told? 
Does it not lead one to feel sure that the rest of the 
plan will follow?" 

^'S— s — h, shut up! Get into your place, Esbul. 
Climb on to your pony, Philip; and don't forget — not 
a word. I can hear someone coming." 

They had drawn up the chaise just beside the road, 
and were standing on the soft ground which bordered 
it. The road itself was so covered in dust that there, 
too, steps were hardly audible; yet the heavy tread of 
a man approaching now reached their ears, and a little 
later the deep breathing of one using much exertion. 
Then, when a few minutes had passed, a ponderous 
figure came into view through the gathering darkness 
— a figure which grunted and panted, which could 
have belonged to no other than the German. 

** Ach, it is there!" they heard him say in his own 
language. '^It is well, for I am tired, and this dust 
and the heat exhaust me." 

Coming up to the chaise, he looked swiftly at the 
figures of the three men near it and clambered ponder- 
ously into it. 

^* You came direct here without attracting attention, 
eh?" he asked peremptorily of one of the figures 
mounted on a pony — of Philip, in fact, for the sub- 
altern happened to be nearest. "Come, answer! 
You attracted no attention!" 

He was speaking in Turkish now — execrable 



372 On the Road to Bagdad 

Turkish, with a strong flavour of German accent 
about it, and yet a language unknown to Philip. 
What was he to do? Attempt an answer or remain 
silent? Either might easily warn the German that all 
was not as it should be, and then a way out of the diffi- 
culty occurred to him. Philip opened his mouth as 
if to answer von Hildemaller, and immediately bent 
double over the neck of the animal he was riding and 
commenced to cough violently, as if he had caught his 
breath, or as if the cloud of dust which the German's 
heavy feet had stirred had almost choked him. 

*' Bah! Then you answer the question." 

The words were shot at the other horseman, and 
received an instant answer. 

*' Master, all is well. We passed through the gate 
without creating suspicion. There is none who knows 
of our coming." 

*'Then drive on," commanded the German to the 
man seated on the box of the vehicle; *' drive on at 
once." 

** But where, where. Master?" 

^' Where? Ah, I had forgotten that you were igno- 
rant of the place to which I am going. Straight on 
till I give you an order to turn ; the place is some ten 
miles distant." 

Never in all the course of their lives would Geoffrey, 
Keith, and Philip forget that journey — that journey, 
that slow, tedious journey over the rough road leading 
from the western gate of Bagdad, a journey occupying 
perhaps two hours and a half, a period which appeared 
to their eager, anxious minds like an eternity. They 
were tingling with excitement, with expectation, and 
with impatience. In spite of the many adventures 



Success at Last 373 

through which they had passed, of the many tight 
places in which they had found themselves, this un- 
doubtedly was the most trying of all their experiences; 
for at any moment the German might discover the ruse, 
might find out that the three who surrounded him 
were not his hirelings, and might defeat the efforts 
made to outwit him. Even his heavy breathing, his 
lolling head, and the fact that he was dozing, hardly 
helped to minimize the tension of the situation. 

'*Ah, a building ahead of us, I think!" Geoff 
whispered to himself, when, having traversed the 
main road for some eight miles, and turned to the left 
at von Hildemaller's bidding, they had made their 
way over a side-track which was indescribably rough 
and trying; "a building ahead of us. Looks like a 
big fortress; perhaps it's a prison." 

He gave vent to a loud cough, so as to awaken the 
German, and then once more fixed his eyes on the dull 
shape he had seen in the distance. As for von Hilde- 
maller, he awoke with a start, and, standing up with 
difficulty, and setting the rickety chaise swinging, he 
too peered ahead, and then, making out that distant 
shape, uttered a hoarse chuckle. 

*' The place! We are there, or almost so. Good!" 
Geoff heard him mutter. '' Pull up at the main gate," 
von Hildemaller commanded Esbul. ''Now, that will 
do! You will wait here till I come out again, and you 
will know what to do, for we have already discussed the 
matter. Wait, though, I will repeat my instructions : 
there will be a man with me, a man who will be tied hand 
and foot, a mere log, of no danger to any one of us. 
I shall join him in the chaise, and you will drive off 
immediately. A mile down the road which we have just 



374 On the Road to Bagdad 

covered you will halt, for that will be sufficiently far, 
and voices, even screams, will not be heard over such 
a distance. You will halt, and then — and then " 

Esbul swung his head round and bent towards the 
German. 

''And then. Master," he whispered, *'the matter 
will be ended as you have already ordered." 

"Good! You understand, then? There's no fear 
of an error being made, no fear of your becoming 
chicken-hearted, for we shall be alone — four of us — 
with this one man, and he tied hand and foot, re- 
member, tied hand and foot," the German repeated, 
giving vent to a ghastly chuckle. ''No fear of a 
blow, no fear of his struggling even, no chance of his 

breaking loose. If he screams Ah, well, you 

have heard screams before, and they will not unman 
you. You are ready?" 

" Ready, Master," Esbul told him in that soft 
voice of his. "Ready, and willing." 

Again the chaise rolled and rocked as the German 
stepped to the side of it and gained the ground. 
Waddling towards the prison, he ascended the stone 
steps which led to the doorway, and banged heavily 
upon the wall. Perhaps five minutes later, steps were 
heard within, the door was opened, and, having par- 
leyed for a while, von Hildemaller entered, and the 
door closed instantly. 

" Now, round with the chaise, and make ready. 
Good heavens!" exclaimed Geoff, only at this moment 
beginning to grasp the sinister designs of the German. 
"Did ever one listen to such a scoundrel? A 
bound man is to be brought out to us, we are to halt 
a mile down the road, a mile down it, Philip, at such 



Success at Last 375 

a distance that screams may not be heard by the 
people in this prison, the bound man will be so 
securely fastened that he cannot even struggle for his 
life, and there, in cold blood, he is to be finished. 
You realize the plan? Its cold-blooded cruelty? You 
realize the frightful act that this von Hildemaller con- 
templates?" 

For a few moments there was silence between them, 
and then a gasp almost of pain from Philip, a gasp of 
amazement, of horror, and of anger. Usually light- 
hearted, flippant in fact, his voice now, when he spoke, 
was grave, was trembling with passion. 

''A fellow wouldn't kill a mad dog under such 
conditions," he said bitterly, *'and yet this von Hilde- 
maller chuckles. What'll you do?" 

**Do!" There was an ominous ring about the 
answer. ''Do!" repeated Geoff sternly; "can you 
ask that question, Philip? Now, listen : you'll cut this 
prisoner loose, you'll leave von Hildemaller to me. 
That's understood?'* 

''Distinctly." 

"Then, silence; at any moment the door may 
open." 

Yet minutes dragged along, slow, tense minutes, 
during which they waited for the reappearance of the 
German ; waited, indeed, until they began to fear lest 
he would never return, lest he had avoided them ; to 
fear that he had guessed what was happening, had 
suspected the three men who had accompanied him 
upon this journey, and was sheltering himself within 
the prison. So long did he remain, in fact, that Philip 
at length felt positive that the cunning Teuton had 
indeed outwitted them ; while Geoff, a prey to all sorts 



376 On the Road to Bagdad 

of fears, was positively trembling with excitement. 
And then, of a sudden, when they had almost given 
up hope, when it seemed that all their plans had 
failed, and that their efforts had resulted in nothing, 
steps were heard within the prison — heavy steps — 
approaching the door, and at length the latter opened. 
A minute later more steps reached their ears, the 
heavy blowing of an individual, his panting in fact, 
followed by the appearance of von Hildemaller, his 
ponderous figure almost hidden in the darkness, yet 
sufficiently illuminated by the rays from some very 
distant lamp to leave no doubt of his coming. 

Doubt indeed ! No illumination was needed where 
this German was concerned, for even if his figure 
were invisible the man's heavy breathing, his ponder- 
ous footsteps were sufficient indication of his presence. 

**Good — good — good!" Geoff heard him saying, 
chuckling in fact. ''He is tied hand and foot, this 
fellow. What a thing it is to be a friend of the 
Governor of Bagdad. A friend indeed! He, he! 
One who can take him by the elbow, as it were, can 
whisper things into his ear, and can force him to do 
one's bidding. Bring the man along and throw him 
into the chaise. 

*' But — but — wait, go gently, for the vehicle is old 
and rickety enough. In with him." 

Men were struggling down the steps of the prison, 
four men at least, who carried a bundle between them, 
which they bore towards the carriage. Lifting their 
burden with some difficulty, they pushed it on to the 
seat, thrust it well to one side, and then retreated 
hastily, as if they were ashamed of what they had 
been doing. A second later, indeed, the door of the 



Success at Last 377 

prison was banged to, those distant rays of light were 
cut off, and the German and his three hirelings and 
the bundle in the carriage were left alone in the dark- 
ness, at liberty at last to depart on their journey. 

*'Good! Better than ever! Things could not have 
gone more smoothly," Geoff heard von Hildemaller 
chuckling again, as he waddled towards the chaise, 
and, mounting into it, depressed its springs consider- 
ably. He sat himself down with a bump beside the 
bundle resting there, and gave a peremptory order to 
the driver: ''Move on," he panted; ''drive fast, but 
pull up as we arranged when you have covered the 
distance. Bah! How that note from the Governor 
cowed the Turk in command of the prison. When 
this fellow beside me realized what was before him, I 
saw him squirm ; he would have thrown himself upon 
me had he been able, and had his guards not sur- 
rounded him ; but he's here— here — beside me, and 
as helpless as a log, as near his end as ever a man 
was." 

The wretch gave vent to a hideous, wheezy chuckle, 
a chuckle which made Geoff's blood boil and his ears 
tingle as he listened ; for by then he was riding quite 
close to the chaise, within two feet of that silent 
bundle, within easy hearing of the German, so near 
in fact was he that a moment later he heard, rather 
than saw, the bundle moving, wriggling upon the 
seat on which it had been deposited, and heard an 
instant growl escape the German. 

" Ach ! So you are alife, are you?" von Hildemaller 
hissed into the ear of his wretched prisoner. "So, 
Douglas Pasha, I haff you at last, securely, away 
from interference of the Turks, my prisoner, to do 



378 On the Road to Bagdad 

with as I will. Now, listen awhile, for I haff a few 
sweet words to say to you; and you, Douglas Pasha, 
haff little time on this earth in which to hear them." 

The bundle stirred again, and, bending low, Geoff 
heard inarticulate sounds coming from it, sounds 
which suggested that the prisoner was securely 
gagged, and, indeed, was almost fighting for his 
breath. As he bent, too, he was so near to von Hilde- 
maller that he could almost have touched the ruffian, 
and found it a hard task indeed to keep his hands off 
him; for by now every drop of blood in Geoff's 
manly body was boiling with rage, and he was trem- 
bling with eagerness for the moment to arrive when 
he might release his guardian. And then von Hilde- 
maller's voice was heard again, subdued and veno- 
mous, his words coming in an angry hiss through 
those extensive lips of his, which had deceived so 
many people. 

^'Listen, Douglas Pasha," he began again; ''you 
wonder why I, a German, should hate you so, should 
track you down, should haff you here beside me and 
be carrying you away from your prison for one pur- 
pose only, that purpose to rid the world of you! 
Well, I will explain. For you, personally, I haff no 
great objection, except that you are an Englishman. 
But you are an obstacle; for years you haff been an 
obstacle in my path — in the path of Germany. But 
for you the aims of my Emperor would haff been 
prosecuted with far greater success amongst these 
people, and Germany would haff obtained a greater 
hold over the Turks and their country. It was you 
who put a stop to that, who set our efforts at naught, 
who balked every move I made, and defeated us on 



Success at Last 379 

every side. In those days before the war I did my 
best to get rid of you, and when the war came I again 
did my best to rid the country of a man who was in 
every sense an enemy to Germany. Yet again you 
outwitted me, till a day arrived when I was able to 
arrange for your capture. Even then you were too 
strong for me, you and your friends; they protected 
you, saved you, and kept you in security until this 
very moment. And meanwhile, having been beaten 
by you and your friends in every effort, I was beaten 
also by that ward of yours — one Geoffrey Keith — who 
came to this country." 

The bundle moved again, the rickety, rattling chaise 
creaked and swayed as the prisoner struggled. A 
stifled growl came from the bundle, and then there 
was silence. 

*'Yes, Geoffrey Keith and another came to this 
country — your ward and a friend of his came — and 
were captured and thrown into prison. Now listen 
still further, Douglas Pasha. For the moment you 
were secure, and I, who had a grudge against you 
and aimed at your death, could find no other means 
of injuring you than through these two young fellows. 
I made plans to get them safely into my hands, when, 
seeing that they are enemies of Germany, I should 
have made an end of them ; but they defeated me just 
as you had done, defeated me entirely. That left you 
alone to deal with, till the time arrives when those two 
are again captured. It is but a matter of two or three 
days since they broke loose from their prison, and 
surely within a little while the Turks will haff them, 
and I too shall be able to reward them for the trick 
they haff played upon me. Fear not, Douglas Pasha ! 



38o On the Road to Bagdad 

For your ward shall come to the same end as you in 
a little time. Before the week is passed, perhaps, he 
may be riding in this chaise, tied into a helpless 
bundle just as you are, jogging on to his death. You 
understand? To his death, just as you are jogging 
now. You understand, Douglas Pasha?" 

The voice was raised by then to a shrill shriek, 
while the German was trembling with passion — 
trembling with triumph and with anticipation of the 
moment so closely approaching. Little wonder that 
Geoff, riding so close, could hardly remain on his 
pony, that the perspiration was dropping from his 
forehead, and that his breath was coming in little 
gasps. Those minutes which passed, as they saun- 
tered along the dusty road, were a purgatory, were 
almost insupportable, and were indescribably long. 
But at length, having by then driven perhaps a mile 
from the prison, Esbul suddenly pulled up his horse, 
and the whole party came to a halt at the side of the 
road, just as the German had commanded, 

**And now," called von Hildemaller, struggling 
from the chaise to the road, '^ lift the ruffian out, pull 
the gag out of his mouth, and slit his throat." 

Geoff slid from his pony almost before the chaise 
had come to a rest, and, dropping his reins, stepped 
swiftly up beside the German. Esbul clambered from 
the driving-seat of the carriage and leaned over the 
bundle which von Hildemaller had secured from the 
prison, while Philip, himself a prey to tremendous 
excitement, dismounted, and ran forward. 

**Cut the Major loose," Geoff shouted; ^^you can 
leave this murdering rascal to me entirely." 

There were sounds of scuffling in the darkness, 



Success at Last 381 

clouds of choking dust arose and smothered every 
member of the party, while a scream escaped from the 
throat of one of them — a scream of terror. Then 
silence followed, and within a few seconds a sound of 
a man struggling, heavy breathing, and then a dull 
thud. 

Geoff scrambled into the chaise and sat beside the 
bundle — now released — and, stretching out one of 
those strong hands of his, gripped the hand of Douglas 
Pasha. Esbul clambered into the driving-seat again, 
while Philip mounted his pony, and, taking the reins 
of the other, moved to the back of the carriage. 

*' Go on!" commanded Geoff huskily; ''drive on 
to the main road, and then towards Bagdad." 

A moment later he had turned towards the prisoner 
whom they had rescued, still gripping his hand, and 
hurriedly explained matters to him. The meeting in 
the carriage was indeed a most dramatic affair, so 
unexpected, indeed, that Douglas Pasha was at first 
almost speechless, and then almost hysterical after the 
trying experience he had passed through. As for Esbul, 
Geoff, and Philip, they were so elated, so excited, and 
so delighted at what had happened that they babbled 
like children, and could scarcely speak coherently. 
Indeed it was the Major who regained his self-posses- 
sion first, and began to cross-examine his rescuers; 
and at last he asked a final question : 

''This German — this von Hildemaller," he asked; 
" what happened to him?" 

"Yes, what happened to him?" Philip chimed in 
eagerly, as he clattered along beside the carriage. 

"Don't ask," replied Geoff, with a curtness which 
was unusual in him. " He's dead. I killed him." 



382 On the Road to Bagdad 

And dead von Hildemaller was. Huddled in a 
heap in the dust, in the midst of the road behind, at 
the very spot where he had intended to murder 
Douglas Pasha. Retribution had indeed found this 
odious, scheming, cunning agent of the Kaiser, at the 
very moment when he imagined that triumph was 
coming, and who can doubt that that retribution was 
earned? For never before was there such a villain. 

We have little else to relate with regard to the 
fortunes of Geoff and his friends and of Douglas 
Pasha. Reaching Bagdad at earliest dawn, and con- 
triving to smuggle themselves into the city, they 
found safe quarters with Benshi. Later, they made 
their way from the city to a neighbouring tribe of 
Arabs whom the Major knew, and who at once be- 
friended him. Then by easy stages they crossed the 
desert towards Kut-el-Amara, hoping there to join the 
British expedition. 

As for the latter force, the remains of that gallant 
division under General Townshend, which had so 
boldly essayed to capture Bagdad, and which, having 
dealt most severely with a Turkish force vastly out- 
numbering it at Ctesiphon, was forced to retreat, it 
had conducted that retirement along the River Tigris 
in the most masterly manner possible, and, having 
gained a sharp bend in the river at the town of Kut, 
where the Tigris surrounds the town on three sides, 
it had there been forced to halt, and put itself on the 
defensive. Some sixty thousand Turks surrounded 
the place, and huge efforts were made to beat down 
the resistance of this gallant division; yet it held off 
all attacks, and forced the Turks finally to sit down 
and besiege it. It became a question now ,as to 



Success at Last 383 

whether the relieving force, which had now advanced 
towards Kut, and which was already indeed within 
gun-sound of General Townshend's forces, could 
break through and bring relief before the supplies 
of the beleaguered army had dwindled. As a matter 
of fact, persistent rains, the most wretched weather, 
and the extension of those marshes created a position 
which helped the Turks, and frustrated every effort of 
the relieving force. It drew nearer, but could not 
come up to Kut. It struggled on against over- 
whelming difficulties, while the starving band of 
heroes at Kut still held off the enemy ; and then, 
when more rain came, whe-n the marshes swept 
farther afield and relief seemed farther off than ever, 
and food was gone entirely, surrender became in- 
evitable, and General Townshend and his noble band 
fell prisoners to the Turkish enemy. 

Yet, one may ask, was the loss of the remains of 
this gallant division all loss to the British and their 
Allies? and may reply with confidence that it was 
not so. For that hazardous approach to Bagdad had 
held a numerous force of Turkish soldiers, while the 
resistance of our men at Kut had kept the enemy 
troops from operating in other parts of Asiatic 
Turkey. Indeed the absence of those sixty thousand 
Turks round about Kut aided not a little in the 
operations of the Grand Duke Nicholas, who, having 
established himself firmly at Erzerum, now launched 
his armies into Northern Turkey, and, sweeping on, 
captured Trebizond and many another base of value 
to our enemies. Those parties of Russian horsemen 
who had been operating on the Persian frontier 
marched south and east almost without interruption. 



384 On. the Road to Bagdad 

threatening Bagdad and the retreat of those sixty 
thousand Turks mustered in the neighbourhood of 
Kut-el-Amara. Indeed the noble resistance of 
General Townshend's forces may be said to have 
helped the Russians wonderfully, and, seeing that 
Russia is our ally, that resistance helped Britain 
also. 

Geoff and Philip and Douglas Pasha joined hands 
at length with that relief force which had unfortu- 
nately failed to relieve General Townshend and his 
band of heroes, and, as we write, our two heroes are 
in harness once more and are preparing to fight be- 
side their new comrades right on towards the heart 
of Mesopotamia. 



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